By Jay B Gaskill


The Chameleons


Hillary Clinton

Chameleon Politicus-Leftus



Donald Trump

Chameleon Politicus-Populus


Classicists will recognize Scylla and Charybdis as the two sea monsters in the Homeric legend that occupied opposite sides of the narrow Strait of Messina. Any mariner who dared thread the path between them faced deadly perils on both sides, hence the expression, being caught between a rock and a hard place.


Herpetologists (who study creeping things) will recognize this portrayal of Clinton and Trump as Chameleons. As a professional politician, Clinton’s positions have changed over decades, sometimes during a single campaign, while Trump’s populist rhetoric has often mutated, clarified, reversed itself, changing positions day to day.


Our Scylla and Charybdis trap, caught as we are between two political chameleons, is not unprecedented. After all, most politicians are deliberately vague. But given the real perils the US faces, our situation is so perilous that we would be better off staging a dice roll between the two Vice Presidential candidates, were they elevated to Presidential candidates.


The USA desperately needs a functioning two party system, one characterized by mutually respectful dialogue. Without ongoing checks and balances, each party can become corrupt, extremist, or both. For most of the Cold War epoch, bipartisan cooperation was the norm, especially when Democrats were anti-communist and pro-military and Republicans were fully on the same page. That ship has sailed – today, both parties are ideologically fractured. I note that registered democrats and republicans are greatly outnumbered by the voters who identify themselves as independents. However this election and its aftermath play out, our country is in for wrenching changes.



Perils, Problems and Proposals


According to Gaskill



Can the Iranian regime’s ill-concealed rush to become the next deadly nuclear power be stopped in time? A nuclear armed jihad (and make no mistake that is the underlying peril) would make the Cold War seem like a bad vacation. Given the negligent acquiescence of the current administration, Obama’s reliance on the vaunted “treaty” with the radical Iran regime will not work. Without robust “kinetic sanctions” (i.e., a credible, fully effective military preemptive response, unhesitatingly employed as necessary), we will wake up in a nightmare world.




There is a huge and pervasive infiltration of Palestine by the terrorist entity, Hezbollah, siting vast stores of missiles and bombs near fragile civilian targets, with enough firepower to do terrible damage to Israel next door. Which candidate can be relied on to take Israel’s side when the missiles are launched? Hint: The current administration stood idly by while Hezbollah moved in with the support and material assistance of Iran. Hillary has been associated with hawkish positions in the past, but over the last seven years has not differentiated herself from the Obama administration’s thinly veiled hostility to Israel. Trump likes to talk tough about the Islamic threat but his actual foreign policy behavior remains unpredictable.





Will the US Supreme Court still be able to act as a realistic check on the abuse of power by the executive branch, against the constitutional overreach by the legislative branch and the unchecked power grabs by massive federal regulatory agencies? The next president will fill more than two key vacancies on the High Court, shaping its composition and direction for decades to follow. Hillary is committed to a court that would not have attempted to reign in the administration’s executive power, and will reverse what she sees as an excessive commitment to the Second Amendment, and to an unwarranted use of the First Amendment on behalf of political fundraising. Trump has submitted a list of strict constructionist SCOTUS candidates, while at the same time railing at slanderous media coverage, threatening to sic teams of lawyers on his critics with apparent reckless disregard for the First Amendment considerations.





Who will get the USA through the coming fiscal and international monetary crisis without collapsing the dollar and crashing our economy? This is a complex subject, far beyond the scope of a single essay. Suffice it to say that both candidates are aware of the impending train wreck. But neither Hillary nor Donald has squarely addressed it. WHY? …Because neither has a good answer.



According to Gaskill




The USA needs to take concrete, realistic, real-time steps to reverse the decline of our middle class and restore the US manufacturing base by providing honest, meaningful employment to the vast army of underutilized workers – meaning real work as opposed to a perpetual condition of dependency disguised as an entitlement. The kinds of solutions that will work in the real world tend to trespass equally on liberal and conservative orthodoxy. For example, the identification of certain industries as essential to national security for trade protection (think of exotic metals, key aircraft technology, for example) tends to be dismissed by ideologues of both wings – one as too militaristic, one as a violation of free trade principles.  No matter who wins, some major heavy lifting will be needed, including forging difficult compromises with difficult people.  Ideologues and faint-hearted political hacks need not apply.




Our two traditional political parties need to reconfigure the presidential nomination process by incorporating at least three reforms: (1) Vetting: Any person who wants to be a republican or democratic candidate for the president of the United States must be confidentially vetted first for all potential medical, financial and scandal issues. Confidentiality is essential to permit those who are rejected to agree to participate. Failure to fully cooperate in the vetting process will be disqualifying. (2) Primary reform: No weighted primary votes, especially no winner-take-all primaries will be permitted. Each political party will determine the sequence and scheduling of state by state primary voting, on consultation with state party officials. In a deadlocked convention, party officials have plenary authority to determine the nominee, but cannot bypass the vetting process. (3) Debate reform: The primary debate rules are determined by the party in advance, including the selection of debate moderators, the number of participants, and the consequences for candidates who disregard the debate rules (which can include disqualification).





The looming fiscal crisis is strongly coupled to the gathering international trade and finance crisis. When it hits (and it will), mere spending austerity and higher tax revenues will not be enough. Robust economic growth will be essential, especially in the industries than can employ more of the 35% of working age Americans who are currently sidelined. But a growth surge is being held back by a vast web of contradictory policy goals. For example, energy policy is stalled by ambivalence regarding a natural gas boom (well within our reach, if we dare), a national commitment to roll out a 4th generation nuclear energy economy (the zero carbon solution that actually works), among other issues.


Worse, through a combination of neglect and design, much of this commerce- suffocating spider-web is entangled with a pervasive federal regulatory regime – an alphabet soup of agencies that, by virtue of their complexity and insulation from meaningful congressional and executive management, have become intractably difficult to reform. Collectively, they add up to “regulation without representation.”


The USA needs a sophisticated blend of industrial policy (selectively reestablishing protecting key local industries and their attendant jobs) with fair and open access to foreign markets (a goal that conflicts with other countries’ industrial policies).


Our country’s economic crisis will require policy approaches that are intelligent, non-ideological, proactive, practical and creative.  But when have these terms ever been honestly applied to the creaking, corrupt antiquated political system that operates inside the DC Beltway?



► Please note: Intractable does not mean impossible.



In the context of the grave stakes and challenges, and the very difficult steps needed to avert disaster, all the discussions around special bathroom accommodations for transsexuals (whatever the merits), and nearly all the pending “social issues” are just distractions.


Moreover, it is painfully obvious that the economic issues looming over the USA will not be resolved without additional tax revenues. And it is equally obvious that that the way forward requires each party to accommodate the other.


Our country needs someone of the stature and bipartisan support of a Dwight David Eisenhower,

But we will be settling for much less. Voting for either Hillary or Donald presents a vexing Scylla and Charybdis choice for most Americans – a gamble either way. Both candidates are chameleon politicians.  Both promises to take us in a separate direction, or do they?  No wonder that a majority of their supporters doubt whether they can take their candidate’s promises and assurances seriously.


Electing Trump presents risks that many find unacceptable. Informed conservative voters are being asked to gamble on a moderately good outcome (a more conservative Supreme Court, a tougher foreign policy stance) versus bleak downside possibilities. Informed liberal supporters of a Hillary presidency are being asked to gamble on a moderately good, somewhat unsatisfying outcome (say, a centrist, pragmatic president), versus a circle-the-wagons partisan standoff, possibly coupled with a POTUS health crisis, even hesitation in the face of a Hezbollah attack on Israel or allowing an Iranian nuclear breakout.


Few voters have confidence in Trump or Clinton – hence the dilemma. Neither candidate is a bet that traditional gamblers would normally take. I share the electorate’s ambivalence.


Either Hillary’s or Trump’s Vice President may well become president. Why? …Because neither Trump nor Hillary may serve a full first term. In Hillary Clinton’s case, her “secret” medical issues may well truncate her presidency. In the Donald Trump’s case, a first term impeachment is not out of the question.


Conservative columnist Michael Gerson wrote an insightful piece in the in the July 29th Washington Post, concluding with this zinger: “[T]he parties, in their wisdom, have chosen the untrusted against the unstable, the uninspiring against the unfit.” Given such choices many ask, why vote? …Because the future of the USA is at stake.


Please note: When second term President Bill Clinton was forced to cooperate with the Republican congress, better public policy resulted. Checks and balances worked.


Recent polls show the third parties are gaining support. Although no “third party” candidate can win, but the Libertarian, Gary Johnson, the former New Mexico governor, may break the 15% barrier and get into the debates.  So a vote for a third party candidate makes some sense. Neither Clinton nor Trump will face a rubberstamp congress. By denying the winner a mandate, a strong third party showing will encourage dialogue and compromise.


Is the best we can do?

It was far from the best we could have done.

But that ship, having sailed, is now under water.

So we start over.

Every era begins on the foundations of the mistakes of the earlier ones.

Pray for the United States of America.

JBG head

Jay Gaskill


►Copyright © 2016 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law


►Portions of this article appeared in the Post Register ( www.pastregister.com ) A license to link to this piece or to publish pull quotes from it (with full attribution) is hereby granted. For all other permissions and comments, please contact the author via email at outlawyer.gaskill@gmailcom .


►Jay Gaskill served as the chief Public Defender for the County of Alameda, CA, headquartered in Oakland for 10 years, following a long career as an Assistant Public Defender, then left his “life of crime” to devote more time to other pursuits.  Learn more about the author by visiting The Policy Think Site at www.jaygaskill.com; or by navigating to http://jaygaskill.com/WhoIsJayBGaskill.pdf  and / or http://www.jaygaskill.com/Profile.pdf .



READ Jay B Gaskill’s moving essay, THE AMERICAN CREEDhttp://jaygaskill.com/AmericanCreed2010.pdf

…and his chilling analysis of the nuclear threat from Islam———–



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From the Desk of Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law



August 4, 2016


Dear Mr. Trump:


It’s time to up your game, or get out of the race. I am beginning to wonder whether you were secretly recruited to get Hillary elected.  No one, not even you, can wing it into the White House. You are being played [1] and you don’t even seem to know it. Your recent performance makes you the single most effective campaign asset for Hillary’s election.


After the 911 attacks, Defense secretary Rumsfeld warned the US intelligence and national security community about the unknown unknowns, the threats and dangers that our experts weren’t smart enough even to ask questions about.  It is the supreme danger of overconfidence, and the downfall of all who think they know more than they really do.


Not only do you seem to be unaware of the traps and snares on the playing field of politics, you seem to be unaware of the traps and snares on the international scene. [2]


Worse, you don’t seem to care. Do your homework. Please.


Seek out and listen to the people who know more than you do – they are legion.  Pay attention to them. And think – better yet, consult, before you follow your next impulse. People want change.  But they do not want to be led over a cliff.


Jay B Gaskill

[1] Khizr Kahn’s presentation at the DNC convention was an obvious trap. A considered response, delivered in only writing (cc to the media – as opposed to your damaging shoot-from-the-hip verbal fusillade), would read something like this:  Mr. Kahn, I deeply regret that you allowed yourself to get caught up in partisan politics. Know that I honor the bravery and service of your son, Captain Kahn, and that you have my deepest sympathy. I wish we had more men like him. Yes, I do have a copy of the US constitution. As an immigration lawyer, you surely already know that as a sovereign nation, the United States of America has the right and the duty to control who comes and goes across our borders: The security and safety of the American people is paramount. The huge volume of foreign-applicants from places that are plagued with large numbers of the radicalized jihad, hiding in the midst of peaceful migrants, presents a daunting security problem. In the current age of jihad inspired and directed terror attacks, it is irresponsible for the US government to fail to fully vet all persons entering US borders. The sheer numbers of potentially suspect applicants require a temporary halt in large scale immigration from such high risk areas. And yes, I recognize that the dangerous radicals pose a threat to the peaceful followers of Islam as well, but our citizens must come first.


[2] When being interviewed by a card-carrying liberal, your friend George Stephanopoulos, and having earlier praised Russian strongman, Vlad Putin, you just cannot afford to give a fog-ball answer about Russian presence in the Crimea.

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For the downloadable PDF, go to this link — http://jaygaskill.com/InnocentLivesMatter.pdf



JBG head

By Jay B Gaskill


There are several lessons from the “Black Lives Matter” campaign, among them:


  • Law enforcement is on one side, predators on the other.
  • For every bad cop (a very, very rare thing in my long experience), there are thousands of dangerous crooks.
  • Effective numbers of on-duty officers are the key to public safety, because well-deployed police forces do deter crime.
  • Police officers do not actually want to shoot their service weapons in the field. To say that shooting a gun is a last resort for any police officer is a huge understatement.


We enjoy safety because we live behind the thin Blue line. But who are the first to suffer when police coverage is inadequate? …Those who must live in the poorest neighborhoods. In every city, they will suffer first and most.


In Oakland, where I served as an Assistant Public Defender and later was appointed to run the County Public Defender’s office, the poorest neighborhoods were populated with struggling families, predominantly African-American and Hispanic. They couldn’t afford burglar bars on their windows, surveillance cameras, private security, or any other crime protection than to – “Call 911 and wait…and wait.”


Unlike the comfortable folks living in gated communities, Oakland’s poor were (and to a tragic degree still are) forced by circumstances to live in danger. Poor families were denied the one fundamental entitlement without which all other entitlements are meaningless: the right to effective police services. It’s hard enough being poor without being constantly victimized by thieves and thugs.


So it is particularly tragic when some high publicity police misconduct incident stokes anger towards “the police.” Whether any particular officer is justified or is way out of line, the resulting hue and cry will weaken support for law enforcement.  I have seen the consequences: Police morale tanks; crime witnesses decline to cooperate; and politicians hesitate to fund additional police resources.


Thankfully, most communities support their police forces. But there are toxic undercurrents in every community: In more rural communities, we think of the meth epidemic, something that can spike without warning and overmatch law enforcement resources. In urban neighborhoods, there are criminal gangs.  And everywhere, criminal acts are opportunistic.  This is why a visible, responsive police presence holds down crime.  And why, in stable neighborhoods, the social capital of trust networks among the law abiding neighbors, crime is also lower.


Police shootings are always troubling, even to the officers involved and even when they are fully justified.  When the shooting victim is black, there is often a hair trigger reaction among the local African American community. This distrust quickly and opportunistically can grow into a political movement based on a thoroughly outmoded caricature of police officers as a bunch throwback, gun-toting “crackers.”   The truth is that the overwhelming majority of America’s police officers are in service for idealistic reasons. Most police officers serve their entire careers without firing their service pistols, except on the range.


Few civilians appreciate the risks police take when, without backup, they must approach someone in a car, an alley, in poor lighting, or when outnumbered. They are damned if they have a firearm ready, and quite possibly dead if they do not.


Years ago I was driving my wife and two small children from California to see my parents in Idaho. I was a career public defender on vacation.  I didn’t know it, but this was to be my law enforcement epiphany.


About 80 miles from my destination, after driving for more than 12 hours, I was ticketed for speeding. The practice then (later discontinued) was to require the driver to post bail at the nearest police station; but in this case I was allowed to use the station in my parents’ town.


So I arrived, put the kids to bed, and borrowed my mother’s car, an old Dodge, and went to find the local police station.  But the station had moved since my last visit, and I soon found myself in a dark cul-de-sac. But before I could turn around, a patrol car suddenly lit up in front of me. I hurriedly backed up, having been conditioned to expect that any police car that suddenly lights up like that is responding to a call. As it turned out, I was the target. I was ordered out of my mother’s car and directed to produce ID.  Cranky and full of civil rights fervor, I slammed my wallet town on the hood of my mother’s Dodge.


Only then did I notice that the officer had his hand on his sidearm. I backpedaled as best I could, dropping the names of some local judges I knew. This drew a stone-faced response. Then I remembered a classmate, E. H., a long-time friend who was (I hoped) still a member of the force. When I mentioned his name, everything melted, and the officer and I were soon on a first name basis.


The officer then explained that this was the location of several burglaries; that he could not tell in the dark whether I had other people in the car. He was alone without backup. He confided to me that he was frightened.  …Frightened. My African American friends and colleagues can attest that I am and was then a white dude. I can attest that any person of any color in that situation would have been perceived as a potential threat.


Whenever you encounter a rant about police racism and excessive force (hard to avoid in the current hysterical atmosphere), keep some facts in mind:


  • Brave African American police officers are on duty, shoulder to shoulder with their brothers in Blue, 24-7, fighting the same enemy.
  • Then look at the victim demographics: Recently in Oakland, African Americans made up 67 of the city’s 90 homicide victims. In San Francisco, they were 50% of all homicide victims. In Los Angeles, 43% of homicide victims were Latino, 38% were black.
  • This pattern is repeated across urban America. Poor people, often minority poor people, are disproportionately numerous among the lists of homicide victims.


Every killing that is prevented by a police presence, saves innocent lives: The homicide victim: spared. His or her family: spared. The neighborhood: spared. Even the would-be killer’s family is spared. The bottom line: Innocent lives matter.


As a public defender in Oakland, I witnessed the rise of the Black Panthers, a race-based “protest” group that mutated into a destructive force. While I was defending a burglary case in the Alameda County Courthouse in Oakland, Black Panther “Defense Minister”, Huey P Newton was being tried next door for the murder of a police officer. It was a retrial after a hung jury. During a recess in his case, Newton, with his lawyer, Charles Gary, entered my courtroom, and sat in during my final argument.


Huey P Newton was an intelligent, charismatic figure with devout, but uncritical followers. The Black Panthers began in idealism, and mutated into a criminal gang. The famous slogan was “The Revolution has come, it’s time to pick up the gun. Off the pigs!


In 1968, Panther Eldridge Cleaver led an ambush of Oakland police officers, during which one Panther was killed.  Newton himself was killed in 1989 by a drug dealer.


Oakland’s police never quite recovered. Years ago, my office had an intake of 180 murders in one year. This was for the whole county, but Oakland accounted for the vast majority of killings. More recently, Oakland’s homicides were “down” to 85. In a small town, say one of 50, 000, that would be about two killings a month.


After all these years, Oakland is still seriously under-policed.


Do take a moment to tell the next police officer you encounter that you appreciate all that he or she does for the community.




Forwards are authorized and encouraged. Copyright © 2016 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

For all comments and other permissions, contact the author at – outlawyer.gaskill@gmail.com  

Portions of this piece are being published as an OP Ed in The Post Register, a regional Idaho newspaper. www.postregister.com  Jay B Gaskill served as the 7th Alameda County Public Defender before leaving his “life of crime.” He now lives in Idaho Falls, his former hometown.

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MAY 10, 2026

JBG head

Three Gaskill Op Ed Pieces &

Concluding Observations

The following three following pieces were published as Opinion pieces in the Post Register, as well as on The Policy Think Site.


ONE:                                   REBRANDING THE GOP?


THE POST REGISTER         www.postregister.com


Op ED / Commentary by Jay B Gaskill


APRIL 8, 2016 …Idaho GOP members decisively rejected Donald Trump. Clearly, “The Donald” has challenged the GOP establishment. But he is also questioning the very idea of conservatism.


From local talk shows, columns and letters one can glean very little about what it means, on any deep personal level, for someone to say “I am a conservative,” except that he or she is unhappy with the current president.


What is conservatism, really? Over the centuries, conservatives were opponents of change – liberals were advocates of change. America’s founders were liberals in that sense, as were their allies in the British parliament. But context always matters. In Soviet Russia, the ruling communists were called “conservatives” and their opponents were “liberals.” The Reagan administration supported the Russian “liberals.” But Reagan was a conservative, wasn’t he?


There are underlying conservative principles. One is at the core: the elevation of individual human dignity over the collective, coercive “social improvement” programs.  A conservative respect for individual human dignity translates to the right to earn and keep one’s property; the defense of the traditional family as an institution; and the robust commitment to law and order and national defense.  Conservatives are committed to the US constitution as a unique achievement in world history that is designed to protect individual human dignity from enemies, domestic and foreign, including from the government itself.


Our two political parties are brands:  The Republican Party brand emphasizes conservative values and goals, but not to the exclusion of some liberal ones. The Democratic Party brand emphasizes the progressive improvement of the human condition via large scale collective measures, but not to the exclusion of some conservative goals.  For republicans, the constitution is a bedrock boundary, a bulwark against tyranny. For many democrats, the constitution is a living instrument that must bend to suit the times. Few of us are “pure” partisans – life is too complicated. Neither party is purely conservative or liberal.


Party branding represents a social contract with voters. Trump would change the Republican brand. A few years from now we will remember how a celebrity with self-contradictory opinions sought to take over the GOP.  For now, we can’t know the outcome. We can’t even be sure whether a president Trump would care about the property rights of an Idaho landowner, or whether he would regard the US constitution as something more than a problem for his lawyers.


Most GOP officials have not lost the ability to count actual votes. Polls are volatile and inaccurate. Votes are real. A majority of individual republicans voting in the primaries have consistently rejected Donald Trump as their presidential candidate. You doubt this? Find one primary race where Donald Trump broke 50% among actual GOP voters. The delegate count exaggerates Trump’s successes because GOP mavens miscalculated. They planned on a Jeb Bush consensus. The gamed the playing field to facilitate that outcome. The unintended result was that a candidate with a minority of votes could run the table. Trump saw the opening and ran with it.


If Mr. Trump never gets a majority of individual GOP primary votes, he should never get the nomination.


If either party’s brand is to change, that should be left up to its voting members.


TWO:                              IT COMES DOWN TO THIS?

THE POST REGISTER         www.postregister.com


Op ED / Commentary by Jay B Gaskill


APRIL 27, 2016 Surprise: Peggy Noonan, Reagan’s speechwriter, and Marc Johnson, aide to Governor Andrus, agree.  Last week, Republican Noonan, writing in the Wall Street Journal and Democrat Johnson, writing in the Post Register, made the same point: Our fractious presidential campaign is a watershed. Noonan: “We have come to this moment”… one where “too much is being lost;” and where “the great choice in a nation of 350 million may come down to Crazy Man versus Criminal.” Johnson: We are “being led by people most of us don’t trust.” This “is the new normal.”


Maybe, maybe not. I’m thinking of the wisdom of the Yankee’s Yogi Berra: “It ain’t over ‘till it’s over.”


The “Crazy Man” in Noonan’s piece is Donald. Trump who apparently thinks he’s riding a tide of popular support all the way to the GOP nomination. But Trump’s juggernaut is a public relations myth. Following the New York and “Amtrak” primaries Tuesday, Trump can claim a total of 11 million votes, give or take, as against about 13.6 million votes for the other GOP candidates. Trump is playing catch-up in the East, having finally won majorities among a small fraction of the GOP affiliated electorate. But he has yet to persuade a majority of all republicans, much less of all Americans, that he should be America’s next President.


The latest primary vote tallies conceal the large Trump voter gap among republicans. I predict that very few GOP non-Trump voters will embrace the Donald. Note that Senator Marco Rubio has merely suspended his candidacy, and still controls 169 delegates. Note that both Rubio and Kasich each poll stronger against Hillary than Trump.


Yogi Berra would not give up this game – not in the ninth inning, with two on base.


Trump takes the GOP nomination only if he locks down 1,237delegates before the first ballot.  But his negatives are big; and his support melts away if he falls short. If this happens, Trump prevails only if GOP leaders decide to hand him the keys, pretending that they have no other choice.


Trump needs another 283 delegates to guarantee him the GOP nomination. Before June 7, there will be primaries in Indiana, Nebraska, West Virginia, Oregon, and Washington State, a total of 199 delegates.  Trump needs more than 199.


The last inning may be played in California on June 7 when its 174 delegates are up for grabs – winner-take-all. Will California be Trump’s Waterloo, or Trump’s coronation?


THREE:                              A “SETTLE-FOR” ELECTION?


THE POST REGISTER         www.postregister.com

Op ED / Commentary by Jay B Gaskill


MAY 4, 2016 Indiana was the Waterloo for Trump’s opponents. Cruz and Kasich have capitulated. As it looks today, California will be Mr. Trump’s coronation as the “best” the GOP can do. Trump still needs 190 delegates, and California republicans (a tiny minority in the state) will deliver 174 of them. So this is to be our “settle for” election. Polls are mere shadows compared to actual votes.  Donald Trump is still not the preferred choice of most GOP voters. By my count, Trump still lags significantly among GOP primary voters – by a million. You can check my estimate by adding up the popular vote totals on the site <www.realclearpolitics.com>. That said, it does look like game over. How can this be? …Because GOP was sleeping at the gate. Because the winner-take-all delegates selection rules allowed a minority candidate to walk away with a majority of delegates. Why all the drop outs? It was never true that the exit of a Trump opponent made it easier for the remaining candidates to collectively out-poll Trump. It only made it harder for any one of them to lead the pack. Collectively they were strong enough to deny Trump a first-ballot win. But each candidate capitulated for one compelling reason that never was a consideration for Mr. Trump: He or she ran out of money. Political money is rarely about the good of the order; it’s typically about buying access to a winner. Consider the irony if the current GOP system produces a November loser.




Victor Davis Hanson is a military historian, classicist, a Central Valley California farm owner, a Hoover Scholar, and an astute, feet-on-the ground political analyst. He has written a spot-on take on the Trump phenomenon, a must read for thinking liberals and realistic conservatives. The title is TRUMP: SOMETHING NEW UNDER THE SUN.


Here are two pull quotes:


Trump is a postmodern creation, for whom traditional and time-tested rules do not apply. He is neither brilliant nor unhinged, neither ecumenical nor just a polarizer, not a wrecker and not a savior of the Republican party, but something else altogether. He does not defy conventional wisdom. There simply is no convention and no wisdom applicable to Donald J. Trump. For years postmodernists have lectured us that there is no truth, no absolutes, no timeless protocols worthy of reverence; Trump is their Nemesis, who reifies their theories that truth is simply a narrative whose veracity is established by the degree of power and persuasion behind it.


Trump has no loyalty to the Republican establishment or to the conservative movement. The apparent greatest attraction for his supporters is that he drives crazy those who worship Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. And if the Republican establishment implodes with the Obamism it did not stop, well, so goes collateral damage — and in the process, woe to us all.


Trump is for a brief season our long-haired Samson, and the two pillars of the temple he is yanking down are the Republicans to his right and the Democrats to his left — and it will all land on top of us, the Philistines beneath.


“And he bent with all his might so that the house fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed in his life.” Judges 16.30.


Go to this link to read Professor Hanson’s full article: http://victorhanson.com/wordpress/?p=9283








Visit The Policy Think Site – www.jaygaskill.com – where conservatives and liberals are on speaking terms.




Both political parties are moribund – they survive as sad caricatures of their better days, having long ago sidelined their better angels. They are built around two disparate, mostly incompatible coalitions, each held together by shopworn slogans and a shared antagonism for the opposing party.


For many years now, America’s single most popular political affiliation remains none of the above.


Democrat and Republican elected federal officials have cooperated in the accumulation of a staggering national debt – whether tacitly, explicitly or by default no longer matters.[1] These same elites have led this country into global trade arrangements that, whatever their other merits and demerits, have led to the  massive loss of good paying American manufacturing jobs and the hollowing out of US manufacturing capacity in traditional core industries like steel. Because this cumulative damage remains unrepaired, a growing resentment is boiling up among disenchanted US voters.


I recently wrote this to one of my favorite correspondents —


I believe the Trump phenomenon fits into the larger picture in which nationalist, anti-global politicians are gaining more and more traction in Europe, the UK and elsewhere.


The governing, ‘we-always-know-better’ ruling elites have been tone deaf. It will be a double reckoning – for the elites and the trade and for fiscal policies they have spawned,


The coming international trade and monetary disruption may do more damage to the general polity than the Great Depression did. But the USA at least has a solid shot at emerging stronger than before. But my optimistic view depends on the survival of our constitution. Pray that the necessary wrenching economic “adjustments” don’t involve abandoning or seriously tinkering with our constitution.


These are going to be “white knuckle” months and years, not just for conservatives and republicans. They are going to be perilous times for Western Civilization itself. And the USA, all faults accounted for, is the linchpin on which the future of all law-driven, non-authoritarian governance depends.


Now I must add a caution:


There almost certainly will be an economic crisis, no doubt of epic proportions, and no doubt during the term of our next President. As a candidate, Mrs. Clinton presents the not-reassuring prospect of business-as-usual, while Trump’s candidacy promises “change.”  But what change?


Donald Trump is a television celebrity. He presents to us as the classic, supremely self-confident sales/developer/promoter a super salesman who is now selling the notion that Donald Trump can do anything he sets out to. Trump saw a political opportunity in the flawed GOP nominating process with an over-crowded field, and he cunningly exploited it. So now what?


Trump’s situation reminds me of that large barking dog that chases cars every day.  …Until the fateful moment when that large barking dog actually catches one.


I am left with the haunting impression that Mr. Trump is still unprepared for governance, that he’s is still playing catch up, that he’s still making things up as he goes along – covering his tracks by reassuring voters that he’s “flexible.”


I still wonder: Does Donald Trump have a true allegiance to the US constitution, or is it a mere legal obstacle to “getting things done”, a problem for the lawyers to fix? Does he have an understanding of proper constitutional limits? Does he even have a philosophy of government? One could go on with this line of questions for hours, but you get the idea.


There are many more questions about Donald Trump than answers.


It is one thing for a candidate to strategically airbrush his or her positions in order to gather in the widest possible coalition.  It is quite another for a shrewd opportunist to hide his ignorance behind vague, provocative verbal fog-balls. The most dangerous kind of ignorance is what Donald Rumsfeld called that of “the unknown, unknowns.” This is the kind of ignorance that bites you from behind – because you are so full of yourself that your “invincible” confidence prevents you from seeking help where a more humble intellect would readily get and heed advice.


As a politically connected California lawyer, I had privileged access to the process by which Ronald Reagan, a “mere” Hollywood actor, was able to transform himself into a world class governor of the nation’s most populous state.  Reagan’s California staff was among the very best blend of policy acumen, political experience and strategic savvy this country has ever seen. And he brought most of that team to the US Presidency, along with (count them) eight years of hands-on experience in governance – and even more years as a skilled, likeable political advocate.  Trump and Mrs. Clinton are not bringing that kind of experience to the table, let alone a world class staff.


Mrs. Clinton has troubling honesty and judgment problems. Mr. Trump has troubling resume and policy-cluelessness problems.  The election of either of them presents significant risks for everyone who cares about the future of the country.


Must we really settle for a roll of the dice?


The remaining six months of campaigning will fill in some of the blanks. But when the smoke settles and our new POTUS takes the oath of office on January 20, 2017?  I suspect that most of the really important questions will remain unanswered. Here are five to keep in mind:


  • Will either candidate be ready, willing and able to block Iran from acquiring an atomic bomb capability when, inevitably the current sanction regime fails; and the radical Iranian regime makes a sudden, clandestine rush to the point-of-no return nuclear armed power status?


  • Will either candidate be ready, willing and able to effectively defend Israel when its enemies, once again go for the jugular in one more horrendous attempt at the “final solution” to “the Jewish problem”?


  • Will either candidate be wise enough, astute enough and courageous enough to keep and employ an American military force that is ready, willing and fully able to accomplish the first two objectives


  • Will either candidate be wise enough, astute enough, courageous enough, and persuasive enough to thread the economic needle between sovereign fiscal bankruptcy and crippling austerity?


  • Will either candidate be able to survive in office long enough to succeed in any of these objectives?

► Survive as in medically? [Hillary is concealing potentially grave health issues, and Big Donald, greatly overweight and under exercised, has revealed no details about his so-called “excellent” heath.]

► Survive as in the inevitable impeachment attempts? [A Trump second term could look like Bill Clinton’s first and Richard Nixon’s last; and Hillary’s cover-ups may come apart during in her first term, especially when her popularity plummets.]




Copyright © 2016 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law


Jay B Gaskill


The three Post Register opinion pieces are also copyrighted by that newspaper.


The cited Victor Davis Hanson article is protected by his copyright. My pull quotes are just that, “fair comment” pull quotes.


A license to link to this article or to publish pull quotes from it (with full attribution) is hereby granted. For all other permissions and comments, please contact the author via email at law@jaygaskill.com.


The author served as the chief Public Defender for the County of Alameda, CA, headquartered in Oakland for 10 years, following a long career as an Assistant Public Defender.


To learn more about Jay B Gaskill, attorney, analyst and author, visit “The Policy Think Site” at

www.jaygaskill.com or navigate to the author’s professional profile at these links: http://jaygaskill.com/WhoIsJayBGaskill.pdf  and / or http://www.jaygaskill.com/Profile.pdf .









[1] Refer to my piece, The Deficit Conspiracy at this link < http://jaygaskill.com/dot2dot/2016/04/12/the-great-federal-deficit-conspiracy/ >.

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This Op Ed was published in the Post Register on April 12, 2016



Jay B Gaskill

Jay B Gaskill

Our two political parties are brands and that “brand” represents a contract with a party’s voters, writes Jay B. Gaskill.

By Jay B Gaskill

I was proud of the Idaho GOP when its members decisively rejected Donald Trump. Clearly “The Donald” has challenged the GOP establishment. But he is also questioning the very idea of conservatism.

From local talk shows, columns and letters one can glean very little about what it means, on any deep personal level, for someone to say “I am a conservative,” except that he or she is unhappy with the current president.

What is conservatism, really? Over the centuries, conservatives were opponents of change – liberals were advocates of change. America’s founders were liberals in that sense, as were their allies in the British parliament. But context always matters. In Soviet Russia, the ruling communists were called “conservatives” and their opponents were “liberals.” The Reagan administration supported the Russian “liberals.” But Reagan was a conservative, wasn’t he?

There are underlying conservative principles. One is at the core: the elevation of individual human dignity over the collective, coercive “social improvement” programs. A conservative respect for individual human dignity translates to the right to earn and keep one’s property; the defense of the traditional family as an institution; and the robust commitment to law and order and national defense. Conservatives are committed to the U.S. Constitution as a unique achievement in world history that is designed to protect individual human dignity from enemies, domestic and foreign, including from the government itself.

Our two political parties are brands: The Republican Party brand emphasizes conservative values and goals, but not to the exclusion of some liberal ones. The Democratic Party brand emphasizes the progressive improvement of the human condition via large scale collective measures, but not to the exclusion of some conservative goals. For Republicans, the Constitution is a bedrock boundary, a bulwark against tyranny. For many Democrats, the Constitution is a living instrument that must bend to suit the times. Few of us are “pure” partisans – life is too complicated. Neither party is purely conservative or liberal.

Party branding represents a social contract with voters. Trump would change the Republican brand. A few years from now, we will remember how a celebrity with self-contradictory opinions sought to take over the GOP. For now, we can’t know the outcome. We can’t even be sure whether a President Trump would care about the property rights of an Idaho landowner, or whether he would regard the U.S. Constitution as something more than a problem for his lawyers.

Most GOP officials have not lost the ability to count actual votes. Polls are volatile and inaccurate. Votes are real. A majority of individual Republicans voting in the primaries have consistently rejected Donald Trump as their presidential candidate.

You doubt this? Find one primary race where Donald Trump broke 50 percent among actual GOP voters. The delegate count exaggerates Trump’s successes because GOP mavens miscalculated. They planned on a Jeb Bush consensus. They gamed the playing field to facilitate that outcome. The unintended result was that a candidate with a minority of votes could run the table. Trump saw the opening and ran with it.

If Mr. Trump never gets a majority of individual GOP primary votes, he should never get the nomination.

If either party’s brand is to change, that should be left up to its voting members.

Gaskill is a “recovering lawyer” who lives in Idaho Falls.


Copyright © 2016 by Jay B Gaskill and the Post Register


A longer, related article by Jay Gaskill: The Emerging Coalition of the Creative, Non-Left


link-    http://jaygaskill.com/ANewDay.pdf


More about the author at – http://jaygaskill.com/Profile.pdf


Somme collected articles on Webster’s Web Commentary at http://www.webcommentary.com/php/ShowAuthor.php?id=gaskillj


Please address all comments and reprint permissions to the author via email at law@jaygaskill.com .

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Jay B Gaskill

Jay B Gaskill

Analysis by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law


It is March 2, 2016 at 10:00 AM, Mountain Time:


Donald Trump has been defeated by the popular vote in every single GOP delegate contest, and trails in the number of delegates.


Somehow, for the chattering class (and a few GOP turncoats like the overweight governor of New Jersey) it is all over. NOT.












Trump “wins” with a total of 33%

Trump actually is rejected by 67%



Trump “wins” with a total of 44%

Trump actually is rejected by 56%



Trump “wins” with a total of 39%

Trump actually is rejected by 61%



Trump “wins” with a total of 49%

Trump actually is rejected by 51%



Trump “wins” with a total of 39%

Trump actually is rejected by 61%



Trump “wins” with a total of 35%

Trump actually is rejected by 65%



Trump “wins” with a total of 33%

Trump actually is rejected by 67%



TOTAL DELEGATES FOR TRUMP — 316 (25.5%) of the needed 1,237


TOTAL GOP DELEGATES NOT FOR TRUMP — 364 (29.4%) of the needed 1,237


The real question is what happens at the Republican Convention in Cleveland on July 18.



It is very likely that Trump and all the other candidates will fail to get the needed 1,237 delegates. As a result, ALL delegates will thereafter be free to vote as they individually see fit.  It also seems likely that a majority of the rank and file GOP voters will have rejected the leading plurality candidate, Trump. Will the delegates to the GOP convention then have the requisite grit, common sense and foresight to pick someone other than “the Donald” to stand for election in November?


Trump represents an attempted hostile takeover of an established institution. Like all takeovers of this kind in the business world, the insurgents have one clear shot at winning. Trump just can’t get there, unless the delegates break faith with a majority of republicans and give away the store.


This will be a lesson in statesmanship. If the GOP yields to Trump, in my opinion the party will have forfeited the moral authority to govern.




Copyright © 2016 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law


Forwards and pull quotes from this article require no further permission, provided they are with full attribution.


For all other permissions, email the author at law@jaygaskill.com.











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An Essay in Two Parts


I am here not to praise Trump nor to bury him, but to raise the following question: If this is to be a “settle for” election, can we reasonably and responsibly settle for Donald Trump as the next president of the United States?

 JBG head

Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law






For now, “The Donald” is enjoying a Halo-Effect. This is the fluctuating mirage that people tend to see when a new would-be leader shows up on stage during a time of discontent.  The Halo-Effect only works when a would-be leader’s image is a screen on which we can project all our hopes and expectations.


The Halo is always a mirage.


This is what has happened so far:  Our two political parties have effectively cooperated for the last half century (both voluntarily and involuntarily) in the creation of a social, economic and political vise. We intuitively know this has taken place. Even without naming the resulting situation, a moment’s reflection exposes the source of the current popular discontent: 


More and more policy is being determined outside the traditional democratic processes. As an exercise, I invite you to make a list of any specific policy concerns of yours that have been subject to a popular vote especially an election in which you were given a meaningful choice. Then make a second list of policies and rules that have impacted your life in which there was no meaningful electoral choice. The result will tell you a lot about the current discontent.


  • Do you recall being asked to vote on whether your passenger car choices would no longer include a new car without an exploding air bag in the passenger seat, or (a pending issues) whether that new car could be available with rear windows you can see out of (avoiding the pending requirement for rear view cameras)? That was a decree by an administrative agency, no member of which has to stand for election…ever.
  • Do you remember voting on whether regular physician visits can be metered out at 15 minute intervals, or that medical staff can be made to key treatment to “diagnostic codes”?  Voters were not consulted.


We can add many more examples. The takeaway point is that the growing list of such regulatory annoyances is very long, while the number of pertinent ballot choices is very short to nonexistent.


For many Americans, the very notion of meaningful popular consent to all of this is a sham. This is why so many are saying to themselves and to others: I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.


We have lived through the gradual expansion of vary large bureaucratic institutions that have taken larger and larger areas of policy and decision-making out of the hands of the so-called ordinary people. In other cases – thinking, for example of international trade arrangements that helped dismantle US factories – there was no meaningful choice between the two parties.  Vast policy changes affecting our lives have been enabled by the political class, yet the political class dodged accountability, in part by placing power in the control of experts and other unelected officials, removed by layers and layers of separation from any elected official. As a result, presidents, members of the congress and party leaders were able to dodge accountability when policies went wrong or were unpopular.


The sense that we are being “managed” by the governing class is deeply irritating to a large set of displaced artisans and blue collar workers. These are the people who used to be the mainstay of the Democratic Party. These are the people who temporarily became “Reagan democrats.” These are the people who are so disenthralled with both parties that, for them, a looming figure like “The Donald” is cloaked by the Halo Effect.


Over the last 20 years, the Democrats have narrowed their policy agenda into a single, hardline progressive catechism, one that leaves little room for the patriotic, law and order factory workers, miners, oil workers, police officers, fire fighters, not to mention all the other men and women who joined those who shouted “USA!” after September 11, 2001.


Unlike the monolithic 2016 democrats, today’s Republicans are split over a whole range of policy issues. This explains why, although both parties are waking up late to the depth and breadth of discontent, the GOP was the obvious Trump target.  Near term, little that happens on the Democratic side is likely to avert the pending Trump train wreck. So I will focus on the GOP’s ongoing primaries and the pending convention struggle


Why it is very late in the game:


GOP strategists falsely assumed that after a minor struggle, the presumptive heir, Jeb Bush, a centrist within the GOP spectrum, could quickly wrap up the contest, aided by a series of winner-take-all elections in delegate rich states.


Anyone who has followed “The Donald’s” career knows that he is a very shrewd operator.  The table that the GOP set for Bush was ready-made for a Trump takeover. No one in the GOP saw it. But no sharp operator would have been surprised. I conclude that the GOP had no sharp operators on duty.


I write this on Leap Day, on the eve of March 1, before the last big vote before Super-Tuesday. Trump’s lead in delegates is 82. This is against a total of 43 for the other candidates, but it is 1,155 short of the number to win the nomination.


Trump’s Nevada win in the popular vote, 45.9%, meant that 54.1% declined to vote for him. In South Carolina, his 32.5% win meant that 67.5 % voted for someone else. Ditto New Hampshire. And Trump actually lost in Iowa to Cruz.


The main GOP “stop the Donald” obstacles are the “winner-takes-all” states yet to vote — Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Arizona, Wisconsin, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Nebraska, California, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota. …And the “winner-takes proportionately more” states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, Vermont, Maine, Puerto Rico, Idaho, Mississippi and New York.


If Donald Trump consistently gets a larger plurality than the opposition, say in the range of 40%, the “free” extra delegates awarded in the “take all” and “take extra” states could actually award Trump, a candidate opposed by a majority of GOP primary voters, a majority of delegates and therefore the nomination.


This is a white knuckle period for the GOP.


If candidate Trump shows up at the GOP convention with only 1,000 pledged delegates, he loses on the first ballot; and all his delegates are set free to vote anyone who has been nominated. What happens next?


Look for trades, promises and conflict to ensue – high theater.


But the second ballot is a critical moment. If Trump’s support starts to erode, then the selection of a different GOP standard bearer is likely. But if Trump’s support increases, you will see blood on the floor.


At the moment, the polls show Trump winning in Florida, but Cruz is winning in Texas. That would be a gain of all 99 Florida delegates for Trump, but the 155 Texas delegates would be allocated by a formula, some for Cruz, some for Trump – because Texas is not winner take all.



TRUMP’S GAME, Continued…




Trump is the known, unknown candidate. For most Americans he’s the self-confident image of success, the millionaire (or billionaire?) of Celebrity Apprentice, brazenly charming enjoying the guilt-free glamour of a “self-made” rich man. He is a savvy manipulator with a gift for publicity. And – for most people – he is a likeable character, someone that people like Bill and Hillary liked to be seen with. His glamour is a projected image – a screen.


Back when I was a young law student in California, a second tier Hollywood actor, Ronald Reagan, first ran for governor against democrat Pat Brown. Governor Brown, the elder, was a lawyer, an old style pro-labor democrat who supported John Kennedy, bolstered California education and rebuilt the water infrastructure. Brown was the one who defeated Richard Nixon when he ran for California governor.


Reagan entered the gubernatorial race during Brown’s ill-advised bid for a third term. By then, Brown was vulnerable. He was weak on law and order issues (a flaw I had far less appreciation for back in my unrealistic liberal days, than I do now). And Governor Brown was embarrassed by the UC campus demonstrations, due to the Vietnam War, something Reagan’s operatives quietly exploited.


Reagan, the challenger, was an actor, seemingly coming out of nowhere. At the time, I had the deepest misgivings about Ronald Reagan’s capacity to run a state – a Hollywood actor!


Then, after Reagan’s election (his signature is on my law diploma), I was privileged to get to know several of his key staff people, and through them I learned of the others.  I met Ed Meese, who later became Attorney General; I knew D. Lowell Jenson, a democrat who served as the head of the Reagan Justice Department’s Criminal Division (who later became a highly respected federal judge).  And I knew Kirk West, who served in various roles in the Reagan statehouse. Through these and other contacts I was able to assemble a picture of the Reagan staff.


It was an impressive group with a skill, depth and quality that was unprecedented for California state government.


When Ronald Reagan moved into the White House, he brought with him key members of his California staff. As President, Ronald Reagan had the most competent staff of any president since Dwight David Eisenhower.


And Trump?


Whatever policy differences one might have, and whatever the ultimate verdict of history on the Reagan presidency, his presidency proved decisively that a good staff is absolutely essential to good governance. Reagan’s staff was first rate. Bill Clinton’s first term floundered because the former Arkansas Governor had poor staff support.


The contrast between Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump is stark.


“The Donald” appears to be the hollow candidate in the race, the walking, talking mirage, the one POTUS aspirant without experts, without even a detailed policy outline – other than his trademark fogball slogans. As of now, Trump appears still to be winging it, as a man without a staff worthy of a President. At times Trump looks like a man on a high wire, holding the attention of the crowd, saying in effect – “Look at me! I’m still up here!”


What happens when he is on the ground?


Donald Trump is seeking the highest executive position in the free world, standing on a high wire without a strong policy portfolio, and with no visible presidential staff.  Presumably Mr. Trump thinks he can hire the necessary people at the last minute. One wonders if it has dawned on him yet that he will be legally required to put all his business ventures into a blind trust for the duration of his service. Of course, there are a number of reasons why someone in Donald Trump’s position would want to remain vague and fluid on concrete proposals, and to refrain from identifying specific experts and key staff members – assuming he has yet figured out who he even wants. But most of those reasons (still working on it, not ready yet, having recruiting issues) are no longer defensible.


The real reason to me stems from Trump’s shrewdness.


As soon as a candidate in his position starts to flesh out the prospective governance picture, to color in the lines, to fill the blanks, that candidate will pierce the bubble of unreasonable expectations. And with that “pop,” the fake halo is exposed. Donald Trump will then risk becoming that TV personality and real estate developer guy who wants us to trust him with the future of the United States of America. And based on what? Trump Tower? A few slogans? An honest face?





Trump’s position on the issues is deliberately vague, except where he wants to make a splash.  He straddles the abortion issue, in effect taking both sides, safely out of the discussion.


Trump has the gift of making simple, pungent statements that convey a feeling, an attitude, without revealing much more. They are like party one-liners. The style is cunning. When he supported waterboarding terrorists, he didn’t bother talking about interrogation effectiveness or the legal definition of torture. In effect, he just said, Why are we worrying about the feelings of these scumbags? They had it coming.  Most ordinary people were not shocked, because he was speaking for them.


What about foreign policy? Aside for a declared admiration of Putin and a promise that “The Donald” will broker an evenhanded deal between the Palestinians and Israel, Otherwise, we have a resounding foreign policy silence.


What about the economy? Or its cousin – monetary and trade policies? Trump appears to be willing to depart from the approved free trade policy by deploying protectionist measures as a weapon to get Mexico to fund a border wall. And the rest of the economic issues? Trust me. I’ll come up with something.


What about education? The stressed and shrinking middle class? Your guess is as good as mine.


But Trump did stake out a borderline censorship position on free speech, First Amendment law notwithstanding. Here’s what he has said:


“I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. … So that when The New York Times writes a hit piece, which is a total disgrace — or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons — write a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected.”


We are entitled to ask: Who is giving Donald Trump constitutional law advice? In the landmark Supreme Court case, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan376 U.S. 254 (1964), any libel suit against the press must meet the actual malice test, meaning that a publisher can only be held libel if the offending story is false, damaging and that the publisher actually knew that it was a lie at the time.


No one can be sure where a “hit piece” (see above) fits into this test, or whether Trump criterion, “purposely negative and horrible and false,” would ever pass First Amendment scrutiny.


But his threat of increased litigation against the press, “we can sue them and win lots of money,” will have a chilling effect on free political discourse. Whether most Trump-engendered lawsuits fail or succeed is beside the point. The ongoing litigation threat becomes form of censorship. And Donald Trump can be thin skinned.


I am far from comfortable with this. I suspect that Donald Trump is not about the constitution. He’s about Donald Trump.


So Why Trump? Why Now?


Donald Trump is an opportunist.  Now, he is the political opportunist who saw a political opening in the GOP and went for it.


Trump seems to actually believe that his self-confidence and sales abilities can make up for any deficit in his policy credentials and political governance experience, and that – when he gets around to it – he can hire all the help he needs.


Donald Rumsfeld talked about the unknown unknowns, the problem that careless policy makers (and physicians) fall into when they think they know everything – because they do not know enough to ask for more information.


Candidate Trump does not seem to have any curiosity.


We are entitled to ask: Is he motivated by patriotism? One suspects he is unable to distinguish between love of country and its institutions and love of himself and the smell of victory.


The American people are poorly equipped to tell prophet from profit, a celebrity from snake oil salesman, a message they want to hear from one they should hear.  They/we are living in the cyber age where electronic devices flood us with a torrent of information. This is a tsunami of un-vetted, untrustworthy information. Every day we venture into the internet, we must confront an info-swamp that can hide wisdom under an avalanche of slogans, and conceal truth under a mountain of advertising gimmicks.


Low information voters are the new normal.


As Hillary once argued, the Democrat party failed to vet young Obama. Now, as Hillary’s medical and legal issues loom, it is painfully clear that someone failed to vet her.


If we fail to vet Donald Trump now, it may never happen.


Where the presidency is concerned, the American electorate seems to be behaving like a lovesick teenager, disappointed by one romance, then rebounding to the opposite type. Obama was the anti-Bush. And now Trump is the quintessential anti-Obama.


So, really, what is behind the Trump mirage?


An adult electorate would demand to find out before it’s too late. To date, Donald Trump has been treating us as gullible children.


So my question is this: Are American voters still adults?




Copyright © 2016 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law


Forwards and pull quotes from this article require no further permission, provided they are with full attribution.


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Also available as a downloadable PDF file at: http://jaygaskill.com/PredatorsAreWe.pdf

A Reflection


Jay B. Gaskill


We survive and thrive because we humans are the apex predators on planet earth.



A former apex predator at work

Our secret weapon as apex predators is our dramatically enhanced capacity for social cooperation, in a word – for civilization. Our single most important technology is the social organization made possible by language, literacy and a common moral order.

The current postmodern ethos is a muddle of incoherent ideas where confused notions of cultural and moral relativism cohabit with vague notions about “rights”.

A return to the common sources and ultimate authority of fundamental human moral wisdom is central to any recovery from this cultural dead end. The alternative is a descent into a form of cannibalism.


Let me open the discussion by posing a question:

Why are there reasonably consistent rules that apply within a working cohort of thieves?

The short answer is that the so-called “thieves’ honor” rules were acquired and perpetuated during the hunter-predator era of the human story.

Gangs of thieves are really hunting teams; they are predator cohorts that cooperate in a common endeavor – to acquire resources by a combination of force and stealth. For success, a certain basic trust must be established, and a division of spoils agreed to. While modern thieves tend (in my professional experience) to screw up, this happens because they tend to violate their own agreed norms. But the utility and validity of the rules they apply to themselves are real, and surprisingly instructive for the rest of us.  Five rules are necessary for the success of any criminal enterprise:

  1. Veracity 

Without some minimum truth fidelity and avoidance of significant deception, the baseline cooperation for any criminal enterprise quickly disintegrates.  There is a kind of Darwinian selection in operation here. The criminal cohorts that fail to follow the rules are the first ones caught.


  1. No theft from fellow thieves


  1. No serious assault on fellow thieves


  1. Promise fidelity among fellow thieves


  1. Obedience to leadership


These “thieves’ honor” precepts are often observed in the breach, but that begs the point: These five norms are at the core of all moral systems that are necessary to support civilization.


Think about it: The rules needed for the close cooperation of a criminal cohort or a Paleolithic predator-hunter team are the same rules necessary for the accomplishment of any similar, survival-related task among otherwise independent, intelligent actors.

The rules that are the foundation of civilization’s necessary moral infrastructure are the “thieves honor” set writ large. The evolution was from hunting team to clan, to village, to tribe, to country, and so on. Within a given cohort, these essential norms apply equally to all members, but are subject to an agreed or imposed leadership principle. In primitive cohorts, this is the alpha-predator / follower model. There are other more sophisticated models as well, especially for larger, community-based cohorts.

Any working civilization represents, at a minimum, the extension of these hunter-cooperation norms to the entire civilization’s scope of authority; and therefore represents at least a partial universalization of the predator-cooperation rules.  This creates an expectation of equality of rule application within specific cohorts, one that has gradually been universalized to apply to humanity at large.




 We humans are now the planet’s dominant predators.  However we now choose to order our individual lives, whether by eating sprouts and beans, or shrink wrapped mammal parts, our species-as-civilization exists in a predator-prey relationship with the rest of the ecosphere.

We need not feel guilty. Our predator heritage is the inevitable end result of the successful emergence of intelligent life on any planet.  The question is not whether we will continue to be predators, but whether we will be responsible ones.

Aboriginal peoples, like the North American and Greenland Inuit, preserve a tradition of prey-reverence, a deep respect, both spiritual and practical, for the animals we humans kill to feed ourselves.

The predator-prey relationship eventually carries the obligation to conserve, i.e., the conservation ethos is concomitant with long-term predator status. The protection and preservation of prey in all its forms “goes with the territory”. 

Pre-intelligent predators tend to overgraze. Early humans acted like other pre-intelligent predators. But we were provided with the gift of intelligence for a number of reasons (e.g., in order to self-organize into civilization), but one of them was to develop the capacity to solve the overgrazing problem.



Several group norms form the “normative architecture” of civilization. They can be restated as an integrated set of moral injunctions.  Biblical scholars find them among the Ten Commandments. Think of “Do not murder, assault, steal, or lie” as applications of a larger body of core principles and norms that are designed to ensure the reciprocal respect for human dignity.  The resulting general rule can be stated in one sentence: 

“Respect the volitional autonomy of others within the context of a rule set that restrains others from impairing your own.”

Without the recognition, allegiance to, and enforcement of core moral (or normative) principles that are accepted as impersonally valid, that is as “objective,” any human organizational system will decay into a corrupt form of predator-perversion –  a system that consumes its own young for “the greater good.”.

Human-on-human predation is a form of cannibalism – whether literal or metaphoric, because the outcome is the consumption of individual human dignity.

The worst 20th century authoritarian states were products of the same cannibal mindset, often disguised as a humanitarian project that “of necessity” treated millions of people as disposable objects. The process of such degenerate behavior begins with a single tendency: Any system of governance that is not founded on a principle-driven respect for individual human dignity inevitably degrades into a base and deadly tyranny.

In practice, a vital, morally based civilization must generate and utilize institutions that uphold the entire set of objective normative principles in a real-world framework. The day-to-day operations of these institutions are worked out on a case-by-case basis. This is the function of law and legal institutions.


Any such principle-driven system also entails a logical hierarchy of main and subordinate moral (or ordinal) principles. And, of course, those pesky application issues will inevitably arise — all principles tend to conflict at the margins. Their resolution is the function of adjudication by fair, honest, principled judges.


In any principle-driven regulatory environment, a policy of reasonableness is essential to allow necessary flexibility and adaptability. A dynamic stability that upholds the objective principles follows. But without objective principles that are reasonably applied, moral authority declines and a civilization degrades into chaos. Without principled, objective principles, all adjudication devolves to personality and politics. Then, as the poet Yeats warned us, “the centre does not hold[i].”


The term “predator civilization” is redundant because all civilizations are predatory.  But not all are founded in the essential moral principles. There is a minimum set:


  • The respect for one’s volitional autonomy, as a reciprocal obligation of citizenship within civilization (I will respect your human dignity as you respect mine) writ large;

The arrangement supported and optimized by bright-line rules of conduct as in-do not lie, cheat, steal, pillage, rape, assault or murder.

  • Mutual respect for human dignity is the only model of moral order, and reasonable accountability is the only enforcement regime that can sustain any viable, peaceful, working civilization of predators over the long haul.


There are only two competing models: a civilization caught in decay and dissolution; or one brought down in brutal totalitarianism.


We humans are still predators and cannot escape that role.  Our choices remain as follows:

  1. to be a prey-conserving civilization, or to become extinct;
  2. to remain free, responsible predators, or to become prey.





Copyright © 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2015 by Jay B. Gaskill


A license to link to this article or to publish pull quotes from it (with full attribution) is hereby granted. For all other permissions and comments, please contact the author via email at law@jaygaskill.com.




The author served as the chief Public Defender for the County of Alameda, CA, headquartered in Oakland for 10 years, following a long career as an Assistant Public Defender. Then, Mr. Gaskill left his “life of crime” to devote more time to writing.


His website, the Policy Think Site, is at — www.jaygaskill.com.


[i] William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming, 1919, in part – “…Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity…”

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Hillary’s Medical Condition – The Issue that will not go away

Hillary Clinton –

The Medical Issue That Won’t Go Away

In her 2008 campaign for the presidency, candidate Hillary Clinton pointedly argued that candidate Barack Obama, the upstart junior Senator from Illinois had not been vetted.  The situation is suddenly reversed. It turns out that Mrs. Clinton has some not-trivial legal problems to resolve – one should never be careless with classified data.


We are now informed that she has been living with significant medical issues.


Will these medical issues become a “DQ” … or merely a caution?



Let me state our pending medical concerns plainly: Mrs. Clinton presents an uncomfortably high-risk medical profile for someone in her mid-50’s, let alone a candidate for President of the United States who will turn 70 the year of our next president’s inauguration.



We now know that Hillary Clinton is prone to blood clotting and fainting spells. She is, to put it plainly, a stroke risk.  Her famous 2012 collapse near the end of her grueling term as Secretary of State was more dangerous than the public was told at the time. Having spent much of her term as Secretary of State flying in aircraft, Secretary Clinton fainted in early December 2012, striking her head with sufficient force to cause a concussion. It is not unreasonable to conclude that she temporarily lost consciousness.


There is a conflict in accounts about where she fell and why.  But in all versions, Hillary Clinton was hospitalized and her physicians discovered a dangerous blood clot in her head, described as a “right transverse venous thrombosis” – a clot located between brain and skull. Intravenous blood thinners were administered over three days and eventually succeeded in dissolving the clot, averting what could have been a catastrophic stroke.


Mrs. Clinton’s medical records also reveal at least two earlier blood clot incidents (in 1998 and 2008). After her release from the hospital, Hillary Clinton was seeing double for at least two weeks. Double vision often accompanies a severe head injury.


Because of Mrs. Clinton’s continuing risk of further blood clotting, she was placed on high-potency blood thinners (Coumadin) for the rest of her life. According to President Bill Clinton, she “required six months of very serious work to get over” the incident.


Another credible story has surfaced: Mrs. Clinton will eventually require heart valve replacement surgery. If true, she should undergo periodic tests. When or if open heart surgery is performed, Mrs. Clinton’s Coumadin doses will be stopped for about two weeks prior to the procedure. Stopping Coumadin raises the risk of a blood clot, even a stroke for someone with her profile. If we assume her open heart surgery is successful, a rapid, full recovery is not a slam dunk outcome.


So far, reporters have been given only one report – from Dr. Lisa Bardack, Hillary Clinton’s personal physician since 2001. The cardiologist, Dr. Allan Schwartz of New York Presbyterian Hospital where Mrs. Clinton was treated for the “potentially life-threatening blood clot”, is reportedly likely to be able add to Mrs. Clinton’s medical profile. When approached by reporters for more information, Dr. Schwartz declined. Mrs. Clinton has not yet released her full, pertinent medical history. Nor will she, in my opinion.


To be fair, heart beat irregularities traced to heart valve malfunctions may be tolerated for years before open heart surgery is indicated.  But eventually, it will.


One can reasonably conclude from all this that Mrs. Clinton presents a high-risk profile for someone in her 50’s, let alone someone who will turn 70 in 2017, the year the new president takes office. If it were you or me, no life insurance agency would issue us a policy.


There are no “unexpected POTUS vacancy” insurance policies, except the selection of a highly prepared and well qualified vice president. No matter how you look at it, the death of any sitting president is a disruptive event, something that, in my opinion, the United States cannot afford during a time of international peril. Any material risk of such an event should be a pass-fail vetting topic when candidates for POTUS are under consideration.


This may, but probably will not be a campaign issue. A medical risk profile like Hillary’s can reasonably justify voting for a different candidate on health grounds alone. But Republican candidates are not likely to raise it, fearing a partisan-feminist backlash. Ah, but the Obama surrogates are not so inhibited – the bitterness between the two camps (Clinton and Obama) seems to still run deep.


So, the issue still has legs, and it will probably work in the background, changing alliances, shifting loyalties. The current administration can be expected to turn up the heat on Mrs. Clinton’s other problems (her seeming carelessness with classified information is just one); and her health issues may provide a face-saving way for her to back out of the race. In this connection, I note that a number of current and former Hillary Clinton supporters have commented, privately – and with caution – in the public square, that she seems tired, appearing at times to just be going through the motions, like someone who is reluctantly keeping a promise, now regretted.


Time will tell, but who can miss the irony? Remember when then Senator Clinton asked voters “Who do you want in the White House when the phone rings at three the morning?”


Her point was sound, but now many will ask: “Without disclosure of all candidate Clinton’s pertinent  medical records, who indeed?”




A license to link to this article or to publish pull quotes from it (with full attribution) is hereby granted. For all other permissions and comments, please contact the author via email at law@jaygaskill.com. The author served as the chief Public Defender for the County of Alameda, CA, headquartered in Oakland for 10 years, following a long career as an Assistant Public Defender. Then, Gaskill left his “life of crime” to devote more time to writing.  Learn more about Jay B Gaskill, attorney, analyst and author, at http://jaygaskill.com/WhoIsJayBGaskill.pdf






Some References



Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton released a letter from her doctor Friday … as the first candidate for president in 2016 to release detailed information about her personal health. [The report was by}…Dr. Lisa Bardack, an internist who practices near Clinton’s suburban New York home.


Hypothyroidism is a very common condition, and Bardack said other notable events in her medical history include deep vein thrombosis — or a blood clot, usually in the leg — in 1998 and 2009, a broken elbow in 2009 and a concussion in 2012.


..Due to her family history, she had full cardiac testing, including an ultrasound exam of arteries in her neck, and all was well.


Bardack said that Clinton got a stomach virus while traveling in 2012, “became dehydrated, fainted and sustained a concussion.”…doctors found a blood clot in a vein in the space between the brain and the skull behind her right ear. Clinton spent a few days in New York-Presbyterian Hospital for treatment and took a month-long absence from her role as secretary of state.

… the concussion’s effects, include[ed] double vision, which Clinton wore glasses with specialized lenses to address.


Clinton’s current medications include a thyroid hormone replacement, …Coumadin…to prevent new blood clots from forming. ” ___







Updated July 31, 2015 5:57 p.m. ET



according to the letter from Dr. Lisa Bardack , chairman of the Department of Medicine at the Mount Kisco Medical Group in Mount Kisco, N.Y., and Mrs. Clinton’s personal physician since 2001.… Mrs. Clinton … has suffered from deep vein thrombosis in 1998 and 2009, an elbow fracture in 2009 and a concussion, which was well documented in 2012.… the concussion came in December 2012, after Mrs. Clinton suffered a stomach virus after traveling and became dehydrated and fainted. During follow-up evaluations, she was found to have a transverse sinus venous thrombosis. She began anticoagulation therapy, which reduces the body’s ability to form clots. Because of the concussion, the doctor wrote, Mrs. Clinton had double vision for a while and benefited from wearing glasses with a Fresnel Prism.…she continues to take a daily drug to prevent clotting.



ABC NEWS May 14, 2014



Hillary Clinton Took 6 Months to ‘Get Over’ Concussion, Bill Says of Timeline


The former president revealed that his wife’s injury “required six months of very serious work to get over,” he said during a question-and-answer session at the Peterson Foundation in Washington.




…the 42nd president also revealed that he knows questions about his wife’s health and age can’t be ignored as the 2016 presidential race comes into focus. In fact, he called it “a serious issue.”



Ed Klein, Author of Blood Feud”

“She had managed to keep her medical history secret out of fear that, should it become public, it would disqualify her from becoming president.”

Page 193

… Hillary fainted while she was working in her seventh-floor office at the State Department, not at home, as Reines told the media. She was treated at the State Department’s infirmary and then, at her own insistence, taken to Whitehaven to recover. However, as soon as Bill appeared on the scene and was able to assess Hillary’s condition for himself, he ordered that she be immediately flown to New York–Presbyterian Hospital in the Fort Washington section of Manhattan. When Reines subsequently released a statement confirming that Hillary was being treated at the hospital over the New Year’s holiday, it naturally intensified speculation about the seriousness of her medical condition. …

She …a blood clot between her brain and skull. She had developed the clot in one of the veins that drains blood from the brain to the heart. … Hillary had an intrinsic tendency to form clots and faint. In addition to the fainting spell she suffered in Buffalo a few years before, she had fainted boarding her plane in Yemen, fallen and fractured her elbow in 2009, and suffered other unspecified fainting episodes. Several years earlier, she had developed a clot in her leg and was put on anticoagulant therapy by her doctor. However, she had foolishly stopped taking her anticoagulant medicine, which might have explained the most recent thrombotic event.

“The unique thing about clotting in the brain is that it could have transformed into a stroke,” said a cardiac specialist with knowledge of Hillary’s condition.

Page 195
… She also suffered from a thyroid condition, which was common among women of her age, and her fainting spells indicated there was an underlying heart problem as well. A cardiac stress test indicated that her heart rhythm and heart valves were not normal. Put into layman’s language, her heart valves were not pumping in a steady way. … sources who discussed Hillary’s medical condition with her were told that Hillary’s doctors considered performing valve-replacement surgery. They ultimately decided against it. Still, before they released Hillary from the hospital, they warned Bill Clinton: “She has to be carefully monitored for the rest of her life.”



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As Published in




Copyright © 2015 by the Post Register

Copyright © 2015 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

JBG head



Guest column: Respect for our prey

August 12, 2015 1:43 a.m.

By Jay B. Gaskill

The serial killing of animals for sport tarnish the reputation of honorable hunters everywhere, writes Jay B. Gaskill.

By Jay B. Gaskill

The recent outrage against Dr. Walter Palmer, the lion assassin, was followed by titillating media focus on Sabrina Corgatelli, the big game hunter from Idaho.

Ms. Corgatelli was pictured with a dead giraffe, kudu, and wart hog in South Africa. She is reportedly an excellent shot with her Winchester; and there seems to be nothing unlawful about her recent African excursion.

Who’s next in the crosshairs? A jackrabbit hunter from Arco? A squirrel killer from Ammon? Dr. Palmer has gone to ground. Ms. Corgatelli has unapologetically pushed back.

We need perspective. This can’t be about killing animals as such. We humans are the alpha predators on planet earth (anthropologists use the term, apex predator). Farm animals are our former prey, tamed into a symbiotic relationship with us. We kill animals all the time. Why this outrage?

Our fellow mammals, especially the furry ones, are almost universally perceived as cute, unless, of course, you are running from one. Cuteness confers a survival advantage on young mammals. It is one thing to kill a dog. But a puppy?

What about our innocent water-dwelling friends? When was the last time anyone went ballistic about a cruel dentist abusing a fish? The message seems to be: Fish all you want, but don’t mistreat furry mammals! Our sympathy for whales is thin. Fur matters.

Something essential is missing from this discussion: the ancient traditions of predator reverence for and conservation of prey. That tradition is alive, well and relevant.

Wyoming poet and writer Gretel Ehrlich (“The Solace of Open Spaces,” “This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland”) lived with an Inuit tribe in Greenland and wrote movingly about the tribe’s respect, sorrow and gratitude when they needed to sacrifice a large mammal to feed and clothe themselves.

Almost nothing was left to waste. Deep respect (even reverence) for prey remains a common thread among Native American spiritual practices, and is prevalent among the older natural hunting traditions.

We still hear versions of that ethos expressed among the better hunters here in the West … although with a bit less sentimentality. We can even hear the echo of the prey-conservation spirit among the hog packers of early Chicago: “We use everything except the squeal.”

When the wolf population gets out of scale, hunters are enlisted to bring the numbers back in balance. Elk hunters tend to go for the older males, a practice that does not threaten the herd’s survival.

It seems we intelligent predators have an important function: keeping the prey-predator ecological relationship in balance. I personally believe that the biblical injunction that we humans have dominion over the animal kingdom means the dominion of a caretaker, not of a serial sport killer.

I’m not repelled by hunters, whether African big game hunters or Idaho deer hunters. But I am offended by the cavalier hunting practices of some of the wealthy trophy hunters. Their profound disconnection from the honorable and ancient hunting traditions is shameful; and it unfairly tarnishes the reputation of honorable hunters everywhere.

The Post Register is a regional newspaper for Eastern Idaho


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