There is always a Path





By Jay B Gaskill


Copyright © 2017 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law



Why do we tend to fare better with optimism as a motivator than with its opposite? 


“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”  Winston Churchill


“I am an optimist. Anyone interested in the future has to be otherwise he would simply shoot himself.” Arthur C Clarke


“Optimism is a force multiplier.”  Colin Powell



The dark opposite of optimism is fatalism — well named.  The bleak acceptance of “no exit” and “nothing changes for the better” has led many who fall under the pessimistic spell to slip into fatal outcomes, while better choices were available, if not obvious.


The future belongs to the life-affirming, creative-adaptive among us.  If you doubt this, just ask the dinosaurs who had a thirty million year run at developing a space-faring civilization before they were wiped out by a giant meteor strike about 66 million years ago.  Oh, that’s right: They didn’t develop language; left no trace of their thought patterns, so you can’t ask them.  But the “Why” answer should be obvious.


Optimum vs. Paralysis



“The moment you definitely commit yourself, providence moves, too.  All sorts of things occur to help you that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issue from your decision, raising in your favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no one could have dreamed would have come your way.”  Author unknown, usually attributed to Goethe


The Pessimist’s Corollary: “The moment you succumb to ambivalence, providence stalls.  All sorts of things seem to occur to block you that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of obstacles issue from your ambivalence, raising in your path all manner of difficulties, risks and portents, including the indifference of those you expected to offer assistance.  All of these difficulties were anticipated by your pessimistic mind.”


Realistic optimism


We need to address the “how” questions of optimism within the framework of a global optimistic mindset, the kind that requires us to integrate the perspective of history and its lessons.  This is essential or world-view optimism.  This form of optimism operates on a different level than the micro-scale of immediate personal advantage.  It animates the fierce parent who charges into danger with the realistic expectation that at least some of the children will survive.  It is qualitatively distinct from that defiant, against-all-odds optimism of the prisoner on the gallows, and even from the transcendent optimism of the faithful for whom death itself has no dominion[1].  It is solidly anchored in the realistic, day-to-day human experience, writ large.


The “how” questions come down to this one: How can you reasonably think that?


Here’s an insight not often acknowledged:


Optimism, on the practical level, cannot even be conceived in the absence of a value framework within which competing outcomes can be assessed as good, bad, optimal, suboptimal and so forth.  Such an evaluative framework is normative in the general moral sense.


But moral systems can differ.


For example, the homicidal racists of Nazi Germany founded their optimism on a narrow doctrine – the will to power of a race, the superiority of which was based on the discredited pseudoscience of racial eugenics.  The bloody-minded communists of Stalin’s Russia based their optimism on another shaky foundation – an authoritarian economic model, Karl Marx’s theory of value leading to a workers’ utopia. It was supposed to be historically inevitable. Instead, another pseudoscience was discredited by history.


Getting to a durable optimistic perspective requires us to do some work on our moral foundations.  We’ll get that topic before the end of this essay.


And practical circumstances vary.


For every practical problem there exists a set of possible responses in real time.  They cluster around the optimum set at one end of the decision scale and the foolish or disastrous set at the other end. Because all real world decision-time is less than optimal, and because the future presents its choices to us through the fog of uncertainty, very few decisions we make can be trusted uncritically: our threshold choices may take us to a better place…or they may be mistakes. The realistic optimists among us understand the limitations of decision making, and keep the ongoing prospect of a plan’s timely revision always open…even the prospect of reconsideration of one’s ideological bent.


Why Realism is Optimism’s Friend


Analogy 1.0


Colloquially speaking, the “rocket scientist” is the icon of smartness.  In the 1930’s, legendary rocket scientists were dedicated to the exquisitely exacting science of ballistics, while under the radar a patent clerk named Albert Einstein was quietly tweaking the very foundations of space and time.  The mundane goal of achieving perfect aim and perfect trajectory over increasingly distances is increasingly unobtainable:  The longer the shot, the greater the number and complexity of variables to be accounted for.  But the notion of the perfect long shot has given way to something more adaptive.  Compare a semiautonomous self-guided cruise missile with any cannon, mortar or gun.


The perfect shot belongs to the smart bullet.


Analogy 2.0


In biological evolution, new species have emerged over great spans of time by seizing the survival edge with brilliant, but highly specialized adaptations.  Think of the heavy armor and horns of the triceratops and the other dinosaur exaggerations.  When the felicitous conditions go away, the rigid, exaggerated adaptations to environmental and ecological conditions lose value like a bad pick on the stock market in a neglected portfolio. More often than not, the failure to adapt takes the burdened species down with it.


By contrast, the supreme adaptation, first manifested on this planet by homo sapiens civilis, was the acquisition of a brilliant suite of faculties that permitted intelligent foresight, innovative adaptation and facilitated social cooperation.  This trumped all of the other adaptations.  Clever thinking coupled with intelligent social cooperation are the adaptations of all adaptations because, with them, we humans can build, imitate, work around or trump all of the advantages that the less clever species inherited with their bodies.   Realistic optimism depends on the strategy for which the human mind, foremost among all of the adaptive processes in nature, is best equipped:  creative, flexible, foresight-coupled reason.

Why the Life-Affirming Moral Compass is Realism’s Friend


We may be nature’s smart bullets, but our success or failure – which is the ultimate measure of realistic optimism – is a target-selection issue.  And the target-selection issue brings us squarely into the realm of morality in its very largest sense.


The origins of the human moral compass can be located in the baseline drives of the evolutionary process. Charles Darwin described the general survival imperative as it operates in nature to drive the mechanisms of natural selection.


The survival urge, taken as a biological imperative, can also be understood as the core ethical imperative.  Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) advanced the cause of an ethical system founded in the “Reverence for Life”[2]


Dr. Schweitzer’s ethical model, reverence for life, was colored by a tragic vision in which he saw a universal will-to-live torn by the Darwinian struggle. We can trace his sense of revulsion to the deeper normative unity implied by the use of the term “universal”.  I located Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s compelling aphorism, “The world presents the ghastly spectacle of a universal will-to-live divided against itself”, in his book, The Philosophy of Civilization, long out of print.  Put so elegantly, his inadequately differentiated life affirmation seemed to blur the distinction between intelligent, morally conscious human life and animal life.  But when framed as the centering principle of a specifically humanist moral system, life affirmation undergirds an essential optimistic moral framework.  This describes our various moral systems (mostly convergent) that are grounded in the human condition and anchored in the principle of the affirmation of (or even reverence for) human life in the context of a civilization that operates as its primary support system.


Our species’ moral compass points us towards life-affirmation – particularly that of human life.  This has huge implications for optimism because the direction embraces our immediate lives and well-being, but takes us further in space and time into the lives of those who will come after us.  At the very terminus of intellectual analysis, this is where we encounter the one of optimism that endures all assaults:  It is the sturdy optimism in those souls who can raise their sights to the cherished great values which will endure after they are gone.


The 960 Jewish warriors and loved ones who stood against the Romans at the fortress on Masada two millennia ago, refusing to surrender, killing themselves rather than giving the attackers the satisfaction of victory…were realistic optimists.  This was the same kind of optimism of the earliest Christians who initially scattered after their Lord and Messiah was tortured and executed, but later rallied, and in a few short generations had forever altered the history of Western civilization.


It is the optimism of the struggling immigrant parents who work themselves into bone deep weariness day and night so their children will have better futures.  It is the optimism of the inventor, the creative artists and all those others who understand that in the sacrifices and rewards of their personal creative struggles it is actually possible for a few to lift up the lives of the many who will come after them.


It is the optimism of those who understand that setbacks and failures are built into the processes of creation.  It is the essential optimism of those of us who believe in the future.[3]

The Target Zone


The limits of the smart bullet metaphor are apparent when we contemplate the elusive and effusive nature of the target zone itself.  This is because realistic optimism selects just not one target, but an entire life zone.  That zone is the harbor for all the unexpected possibilities that further human life, and enhance the human condition.  Among those who are able to approach this zone most closely, are the men and women who are suffused with a light-hearted humility, those for whom error and random variation are the givens – and the expectation of eventual meliorative change is the norm.


The target zone is a future than can be foreseen only in its most general features.  Its outlines are lit up by a convergence of certain grand, life-affirming values and goals, multi-layered, pan-tribal and multi-generational.  This is why that life affirming, creative/adaptive intelligence, seasoned with realistic optimism, has been the very engine of human progress.  Neither high motivation directed at narrow, rigidly defined targets (relaying on exact aim over creative adaptation), nor weak motivation without aim have served us nearly as well.


It follows that, just as we have become aware of the inherent limits to “dumb ballistics” and “smart bullets”, there are limits to all our rigidly detailed visions of progress.  Although our most cherished ideologies have occasionally been useful in generating optimism in the short term, over time they all became traps.  This is evident, for example, whenever ideologies generate authoritarian bureaucracies.  The bureaucratic mindset suffocates creative genius.  And another dysfunction becomes evident when ideologies become obsessed with the “unfairness” of success and achievement in their various forms.  The more exaggerated forms of the “leveling” ideologies kill optimism and paralyze the creative enterprise.  Moreover, similar negative side effects are generated by those ideologies that rigidly protect inherited privilege and/or entrenched political favoritism.  Creative adaptive human intelligence, tasked to enhancing life, the human condition and the continuation of the human creative enterprise, abhors all dead ends.


The iconic series, Star Trek, was a model of essential optimism (over and above the storylines of individual episodes) because its underlying premise was that there really is a future.  I love that recurring scene aboard the Starship Enterprise, when the First Officer asks, “Heading Sir?” and Captain Kirk confidently replies, “Out there!”


The target zone of the realistic optimist is also “out there” … in the life zone.


Our life-affirming moral compasses point us toward a Great Intersection between three convergent affirmations.  Together, these three affirmations are the core animating principles of all of our ethics, however imperfectly they are captured, expressed or taught within the various secular and religious traditions.  They consist of Life Affirmation, especially of human life; the Affirmation of Creation, especially of the human creative enterprise and the Affirmation of Intelligent Being, especially as human intelligence (the one instance of Intelligent Being with which we are familiar on a moment-to-moment basis) exercises its faculties of compassion (necessary for social cooperation), creative innovation and foresight. These three affirmations are the root normative triad.[4]


These three animating principles or affirmations behave as motivating forces.  We can visualize them as convergent beams, the primary colors, if you will, of human moral intelligence. Each ray suffuses and brightens the other two in a variety of unpredictable but wonderful ways.  When sufficiently integrated, they motivate and guide us to band together in civilizations, and – by extension – to organize our lives within a set of mutually protective rules,[5] but also under conditions that provide and protect sufficient freedom that the human creative/adaptive spirit can thrive. [6]


Over the great span of human history, the integration of life, creativity, and intelligent being (with all that implies and entails) remains incomplete.  I believe it can only be approached in any finite part of space-time, never quite fully achieved – the tendency to full integration operating much like the asymptotic convergence of line and curve in geometry.


But the quest for this deep integration of all thinking about reality, based on the belief that all reality is integrated, has always been the Great Attractor of human existence.  As a background world view, it operates as part of the underlying support structure of world ethical systems, and accounts for the general tendency towards the universalization of values and moral rules.  Think of the baseline prohibitions against cheating, theft and assault as first applying only within a tribe, then a race, then a country, then as applying to all humans everywhere.  There is a gradual integration of disparate moral codes that were based on arbitrary differences between people.  The process leads to the increasing universalization of the essence those codes, as in the transition from “Don’t steal from the in-group”, to “Don’t steal from anyone”.


There is a related quest for the essential integration of all reality (inside and outside our heads, if you will) in the context of the wonderful varieties of existential variation we witness everywhere.  Among other historical effects, it has led mystics to the grasp the unity of being[7], and humanists (both religious and secular) to transcend tribal boundaries, and the early thinkers of the Enlightenment to reject the arbitrary social classifications and boundaries of royal privilege.


A version of this same quest has driven the scientific enterprise from the very beginning, in a specialized form of integration limited to the study of the physical processes that occur within the natural world.   The Holy Grail of theoretical science is the elegant, comprehensive, explanatory and predictive integration of the physical universe. The belief that such a comprehensive integration of physical reality really exists in a form that can be grasped by human intelligence is the baseline faith of working scientists everywhere, even those who profess no faith at all.[8]


The still larger integration of the narrowly physical/material perspective of the sciences with the moral and esthetic perspective of intelligent, feeling, valuing beings, marks the threshold of a great human awakening.[9]  The result is essential optimism, the kind that is not limited or defined by one’s mortal life span or particular circumstances.


As a species, we have done very well indeed, and we are doing better and better as we come awake in the foregoing sense.  No earthly utopia imagined in the last five thousand years can come close to the actual human progress achieved over the same period.


Congenital (or habitual) pessimists are too trapped in the micro-perspective of their immediate life experiences to see the magnificence of human progress – from our hard scrabble, frightened beginnings to life within the best of the later civilizations.  It is as if millions of pessimistic ants are crawling through a gallery of stunning beauty, surrounded by exalted music, oblivious to the entire scene.


This is about the sturdy, long-view optimism of buoyant maturity, the form we can call essential optimism.  It is to be distinguished from the pessimism of the apocalyptic mind, and from that existential pessimism we all must occasionally feel, and for the bitter pessimism of the tired and defeated.  And this view trumps the defensive pessimism of those driven by the inordinate fear of disappointment, while it provides some authentic solace to those whose circumstances have closed in around them.


Chronic pessimism is an anesthetic against the surprise of joy.  But optimism, in its essential and realistic sense, is the stimulant that makes joy possible, and accomplishment inevitable…if not for every person who strives, but over time for increasing numbers of those who will come after us.


We are among the first in new generations that have been born into the age of essential optimism.  The word will spread.


Of course, not everyone has awakened in that essentially optimistic place.  Take heart.

The Christian mystic, Julian of Norwich, told the world, 600 years ago that “All will be well”.  She was sharing a revealed truth about the unfolding human story. Despite all those dark episodes of our history, the evil, depravity and calamity, Julian was onto something.  So long as good people can hold the evil forces and tendencies in the human psyche at bay, Julian’s dictum will hold.  This is the ultimate power of optimism over all the contrary forces.

Seven Elements of How


One: Understand that you have the power to “select the target” by framing the narrative of your life in its largest context.


Every uplifting narrative is the result of the selection of that moment when the story ends.

The difference between a naturalistic “we are but corks on the sea” tragedy and of a classic heroic “ta-da!” story is whether the chosen end is the hero’s lonely end in a rest home or the moment of triumph over the loathsome menace.  The embedded meaning of a narrative is chosen.  All lives, all stories and chronicles end, but their meaning lies in the notion of legacy.  [See seven, below.]


Two: Free yourself from unearned and unavoidable guilt; allocate all the rest to the

“lessons learned” category, and act accordingly…and with essential optimism.


Real time decision making is flawed.  Choices are complicated.  No one of  us, especially those most confident of our benign motives, can get through even a single month of life without causing harm, failing to prevent harm, falling short of expectations, selfgenerated or others, being oblivious to someone’s suffering or….  Well, you get the idea.  We tend to forgive children because they are still developing. But the brutal fact is that we all are larger and older versions of those same children caught in an uncompleted stage of development through which we suffer ongoing trial and error aiming at a wise adulthood, say, at the age of 500 years.  We accumulate guilt like a ship accumulates barnacles.  Enjoy today whenever you can.


Three: Use your foresight judiciously; then put it aside and cultivate confidence in your innate adaptivity.  Foresight is a gift with limits.  Adaptability is the gift without limits.


Four: Raise your sights.  Optimism is not just about you or your immediate material circumstances.


Five: Ordinary pessimism is the energy lull between optimistic surges: keep it in its proper place.


Six: Creative procrastination – after the necessary prudent preparation has been done – reinforces the habit of optimism for all those occasions when you will most need it.


Seven: Keep your attention on the crests of the wave form of the chain of life.


From the Beginning, life was preceded as well as followed by death, in an endless cycle of renewal.  The Eastern cultures have inherited a “Great Wheel” world view that transcends the religions that express the same idea.  This assumption, when unexamined and taken as a given, can color everything in life with an essential pessimism.  I’m describing the notion that all is repeated endlessly, that all novelty is repetition, and that both triumph and defeat are “fate”; and that the only release from the Great Wheel is through the disciplines of detachment. This world view is essentially antithetical to the Western world view which – whether secular or religious – finds its roots in the Judeo-Christian world view in which the notion of progress from a Beginning is taken as a given.[10]



The human species is specially equipped with a unique suite of faculties and capabilities, among them the faculties of compassion, creativity, and intelligent life-affirming adaptation.  This has changed the life game.  We humans on the third planet of a yellow star in a spiral arm of a certain galaxy in a very large universe are in the business of adding to the useful legacy data base of the human condition.  It is no accident that most human progress – in overcoming caste, disease, starvation and squalor, has come about when the optimists within the subjugated cultures shook off great wheel fatalism.


The technologies that made this possible began with our most profound, history altering social technology: that of civilization itself, the most precious legacy of all.  The waveform of life, writ large, resembles the double helix of DNA more than the tidal waves of the sea. One end of the helix-shaped human waveform is open to the future.



Follow the author’s ongoing commentary on “life, the universe and everything”  on www.jaygaskill.com and at www.jaygaskillauthor.com.


Pull quotes and forwards are always welcome – just be sure to attribute the author.

[1] Of course, this is a secular, not a religious essay.  But I would be remiss if I didn’t identify myself with those for whom there is something real beyond the material/physical confines of one’s human life. Particularly where justice is concerned, I am persuaded on several levels that death is not the final answer…but that discussion is another essay.

[2] See “Out of my Life and Thought” by Albert Schweitzer  Holt & Co 1938, 1949, Johns Hopkins University Press 1998 and “The Philosophy of Civilization” McMillan 1949, 1987 Prometheus Books.

[3] The reasonable optimism of the entrepreneur with a potentially valuable innovation is grounded in the creative experience, in contrast with the unreasonable optimism of the obsessive gambler.

[4] There is more on the root normative triad and its connection to all ethical systems in my other essays.

[5] These are the core moral precepts that we can find embedded within most religions and legal traditions, particularly as they include prohibitions against fraud, lying, cheating, oath-breaking, stealing, assault and murder.

[6] The need to protect freedom is not just a political or ideological matter. Nor is it a derivative concern, in the sense that a respect for freedom can be derived from the core moral prohibitions (against fraud, lying, cheating, oath-breaking, stealing, assault and murder) by holding the state accountable along with its citizens.  No, protecting freedom is a stand-alone value, essential under real world conditions to the viability of the human creative enterprise. The implications are developed in my other essays.

[7] This core idea is a starting point for a pan-religious metaphysical model in which deity (by whatever name or no name at all) represents (in whole or part) the perfect integration of the three axes of the moral order, life affirmation, the affirmation of creativity, and of intelligence, particularly as such an Intelligent Being is infinitely living, infinitely life affirming, infinitely creative and infinitely compassionate.  The task of unpacking that idea is the subject of several of my essays.

[8] Faith is the willingness to accept the reality of aspects of reality that can’t be fully verified by experience or experiment. Without it, we would have no civilization because interpersonal trust is an act of faith.

[9] Science awakes to a new humility, recognizing that its practitioners need moral guidance, but that experimental science, as such, does not produce or reveal meaning or value or moral guidance.  And the faith traditions awaken to a new humility.  While they have been reassured that they are “onto something”, they humbly open their doors wide to life-affirming creativity and intelligence, and to the manifestations of Holy Being as essentially beyond the exclusive ownership or control of any one tradition or individual.

[10] This view is well developed in Thomas Cahill’s very readable, The Gift of the Jews, Anchor Doubleday 1998-1999.

Are Criminals Getting Worse? Why?

Years ago, I was given the opportunity to share my hard won insights about why criminals are getting worse with a graduating class of freshly minted peace officers.

As most of my readers know, I left my “life of crime” after a number of years of service in order to honor my creative and civic pursuits. I had served in the capacity of an Assistant Public Defender in the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office – headquartered in Oakland, California – as trial lawyer, appellate lawyer, training director, branch office supervisor, and so on, for most of my career since law school.


One day, when I was in the middle of a very long murder trial, the County Board of Supervisors picked me to succeed chief Public Defender James Jenner, the Sixth Public Defender, who had just retired. I became the county’s  Seventh Public Defender, inheriting a legacy that began in 1927 when the Chief Prosecuting Attorney, Earl Warren, recommended that the county start a public defender’s office.  As he put it, poor defendants get the shaft, while a million dollars can buy an acquittal.  Warren was no bleeding heart but he had a passion for fairness.

As a result, the second oldest official Public Defense institution in the world came into being, born of the conscience of a prosecutor. This was the same Earl Warren who later was California Governor, then Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The first Public Defender was one of Warren’s top trial lawyers, reassigned to guarantee a strong defense.

Decades later, I made it my goal to make certain that my office provided  poor defendants with the most professional ethical, hard hitting and ethical defense team in the country. Early on, I made alliances with the District Attorney, the Sheriff and the Chief Probation Officer on funding issues. We were, as I argued, essential parts of a large interacting justice system, one that would benefit from a common front, especially during tough fiscal times. I also made it a goal to further mutual trust relationships within the adversarial system in the service of justice.

Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) is the official gold standard of law enforcement training and education. Not every police agency is able to run a POST  training facility.

But the Alameda County Sheriff did and does.


A legendary County Sheriff, Charles Plummer, served during my Public Defender career, and it was an honor to know this tough, ethical law enforcement official.

So it was a special honor when I was the first Public Defender invited to give an commencement address to the Sheriff’s POST Graduation event. The event was attended by the County Board of Supervisors, the Sheriff’s Command Staff, the POST graduates and their families.  The full text of that speech follows:

An  Address to the Alameda County Sheriff’s 102nd Graduating Academy by Jay B, Gaskill, Alameda County Defender.


Congratulations on completing POST training and entering law enforcement.  It was an honor to be invited to speak here this morning and a pleasure to be able to accept.


Over the last twenty years, I have had the privilege of working with some really exemplary law enforcement officers employed by this sheriff’s Department, men and women from the deputy level through every rank and posting.  And I can tell you without reservation that you are entering the finest sheriff’s Department in the State of California, serving under the finest Sheriff in Alameda County’s history.


Your learning curve has just begun.  Whether you are assigned to patrol, to a jail, to transportation, or to a courtroom, you will immediately discover that you need to know more than you ever thought you would about the courts, the law, and the criminal justice system.  Remember this – the criminal justice departments form an interacting system, a system that is no healthier than its weakest component.  It is, in effect, a huge sorting mechanism which is tasked to separate the criminals from the victims, the guilty from the not so guilty, the bad cases from the good cases, the heavy cases from the cheap cases, the manageable prisoners from the unmanageable, the deserving from the undeserving, and the short timers from the long timers.


You will quickly learn that the judges and the prosecuting attorneys you will deal with tend to spend comparatively little time in close contact with the county inmate population.  You will also quickly learn that there is one department, one group of county employees, more than any other besides your own, that spend comparable face to face, quality time with the same inmate population that you see day in and day out  – the attorneys of the Public Defender’s office.


Over time, you will see many of these jailed defendants as interesting and sometimes complicated people.  You will be hassled, cajoled, assaulted, complemented, bullshitted, begged, amused, aggravated by them.  You will find some of them to be appealing characters, just regular men and women who are caught up in a large impersonal machine, and others to be classic assholes for whom flunking the attitude test was just the first in a series of life’s lessons ignored.


And I can tell you from personal experience.  Been there.  Done that.  I’ve defended them all, the druggie, the killers, the petty nuisance, the third time drunk driver with a job and a family to support, the combat veteran with a massive addiction, the pregnant prostitute, the nineteen year old kid who got caught in something that got out of hand, and the hardened sociopathic crazy who puts me, you, and everybody in the system at risk.


Hopefully, you will come to see, as I have, that the value of punishment and the possibility of redemption are linked with each other.  Almost everybody you meet in custody has a story.  Some of these people can be saved, and some of them will never find their way out.


When I was first a Public Defender attorney, twenty six years ago, it was our practice to conduct client interviews inside the old Santa Rita.  You may have heard the stories about East Graystone and West Graystone which were sub standard maximum security cellblocks, and the Compound, an open area where housing units contained military style barracks.  We would show up in the morning with a stack of blank interview files, be admitted to the Compound by ourselves, and the prisoners would line up and talk to us in the living units or outside in the open.  This practice wouldn’t be acceptable today.  Moreover, it now would be more dangerous.  Have times changed that much?  Yes, they have.


I can tell that the nature of the jail population has changed.  This, on average, is a more dangerous group of people.  It is important to ask ourselves — Why?  Are conditions that much worse?  What in the world is going on?


Not so long ago, I was walking back from the North County jail where I had seen a murder client.  Just behind me on the sidewalk was a woman in her twenties and her child, a girl about nine or ten.  The pair had obviously just visited a prisoner charged with felony assault.  “See,” the mother was saying to her girl, “if you cut somebody, you can end up in there.”   Now I want you to stop and think about that exchange, which, to me, spoke volumes about the deteriorating condition of our society.  The tone of the remark was flat, conversational.  There was no sense at all that the woman was communicating an event of moral significance.  It was as if she had said, “See those weeds, if you don’t cut the grass, that’s what your lawn will look like.”  The content of the remark was cooly practical, without moral judgement, something of the order – “If you go 45 on that street you will get a ticket.”


Now put yourself in that conversation.  You are talking to your own kid.  Someone you both know has knifed somebody and is in jail for felony 245.  Imagine what you would say and how you would probably say it.  First, consider your tone.  You would feel a gut reaction to the event, a sense perhaps captured in the “My God, how could John have done that?” or “I hope you never hang out with him!”  Every part of you would tend to communicate to your child that the act of assault itself was wrong.  Whatever your words, you would be speaking in a context in which the given was  –   We don’t do that. It is wrong.  What disturbed me about that mother’s remark is the context that it revealed, a context in which basic morality was simply absent, just as if you were talking about color to a blind man.


I contend that this was not an isolated sample from an atypical population.  This is like finding dry rot and a termite in your kitchen floor, then finding telltale powder along the bedroom walls, and in the bathroom.  There never is just one termite.  And make no mistake, this is our house we’re talking about.  My contention is that the foundations of civilization are being eaten away by something very sinister, something, that, in modern terms, is very much like a computer virus.  Let me explain.


It has been frequently argued that the continued existence of civilization depends on the rule of law.  That is true.  It is like saying that a house requires a foundation.  But that is not the whole story.  The rule of law itself stands on two pillars –  ultimate right and wrong, and legal integrity.  If either of these pillars is seriously weakened, then the whole structure tends to collapse.  These pillars are the general popular acceptance of two propositions:


(1) Ultimate right and wrong:  This is the idea that there is a higher source of morality, of right and wrong, that comes from an ultimate authority, a more objective, more powerful and more permanent basis for morality than mere human convention or invention.


(2) Legal integrity: This is the idea that the law, however imperfect it may be in detail and application, is based –  at least in its core content – on the ultimate right and wrong, and that the law, as such,  is as binding on the people who administer it as it is on the population at large.


Ultimate right and wrong and legal integrity.  These are the two pillars of law and civilization.  If they fully ever give way, civilization is over.  And you, the graduates of the Alameda County Sheriff’s one hundred and second Basic Academy, are on the front lines in a struggle to save civilization.  So, maybe a word of explanation about the value of civilization is in order.


First, some history.  There were two distinct times in this century when these twin pillars of civilization were profoundly weakened.  In 1917, in World War I pre-Communist Russia, the old order fell apart, the Tzar was removed from power.  Exhausted troops returned from the front.  Civil authorities tried to make democracy work, but they were irresolute.  Basic ideas of right and wrong were called into question and the law was ignored by those who were charged with its administration.  In 1932 pre-Nazi Weimar Germany, similar conditions occurred. The poisonous idea that morality was just a convenient fiction invented to keep the masses in line ran through intellectual circles like a computer virus.  The democratic authorities were confused, weak in their convictions and irresolute in action.  In both societies, Russian and Germany, homicidal tyranny followed.  Stalin and Hitler killed millions.  The horrendous negative consequences lasted generations.


Second, let’s fast forward to the present.  I believe we are at war.  We are facing a threat to the protecting web of traditions, relationships and institutions that provides order and predictability, that sustain the very environment necessary to allow our children and their children to live safe and productive lives.  Civilization is history and respect for history.  It is future and the respect for future. Protecting civilization is what you do.


When I talked about the twin pillars of civilization, the universal nature of morality and the integrity of law and justice, I did not mention money, and I did not mention jobs either.  I did not mention economic poverty.  That omission was intentional and I’ll return to that idea in a moment.


Those of us who have been paying attention to the history of the last thirty years have reason to be worried.  We have good reason to be concerned about the future of civilization and particularly concerned about the future of our local corner of civilization, the part that impacts our loved ones, our neighborhoods, our communities.


In large parts of this society, the moral compass is broken, in others, people wouldn’t know north from south because their compasses point only in one direction — immediate, predatory self advantage.


I believe that we are now and have been at war ever since the first fool who claimed to be a philosopher declared that morality was just an invention. That idea has eaten its way though the social fabric with the same effect as a computer virus corrupting an irreplaceable data base.  Those who believe in and support the pillars on which law and civilization rest are surrounded by millions of gnawing rats, of misguided intellectuals, and reckless idiots who are like the drunken sailors who build a bonfire in the hold of a wooden boat.


Let me give you eight examples of how one can light a fire in the bottom of a wooden boat:


  • Everybody does it.


  • She had it coming.


  • Hey, it was cool – they’ll never miss it.


  • Nobody’s going to find out.


  • Money can buy anything.


  • Only an idiot would tell the truth about that.


  • I had no choice.


  • Right and wrong? Get real!


Obviously this is an incomplete list, but you get the idea.


What makes a gradual moral deterioration like this dangerous is when there is nothing to stop the slide.  How many of the people under 25 in high crime areas actually believe that there is an ultimate right and wrong?  How many well-off latch key kids living in the suburbs do?  Go over the list of eight excuses, imagining you are conducting a poll.  The suburbs are a war zone, too.


This is not a pitched battle.  The lines are not clear.  You can’t walk two blocks in an core urban neighborhood or read two pages in a popular newspaper without encountering the enemy.  But apprehended and un-apprehended criminals themselves are just the sideshow.  Like the fever in the early stages of a septic infection, criminals are a consequence of the deeper sickness.  You take an aspirin, you fail to treat the disease, you feel better for a little while, then you die.  Money alone, whether given directly or in the form of free services, however important, is the aspirin.


This is a battle about the drop out of an entire moral framework.  I’m not talking about “moral compromise” here.  That implies  –  even requires  –  the existence of a moral framework in the first place, something to compromise from.  When I said earlier that I believe in the possibility of redemption, I was using the term very carefully.  Redemption requires recognition that you have committed a wrong.  If you lack the moral framework to recognize that you have committed a wrong, then redemption is technically impossible.  When we are talking about the complete absence of a meaningful moral framework, that is scary.


When I talked about a war, I wasn’t using hyperbole for effect.  I was serious.


This is, at its very root, not an economic problem, except to the extent that the abuse of large sums of money furthers the perception that all government and its system of justice is corrupt, a perception that has long lasting and tragic street consequences. No, I contend that the main cause of crime is the erosion of those two underpinnings or pillars of civilization I mentioned, which boil down to a belief in ultimate right and wrong and respect for that law and its institutions.  To blame economic poverty is to insult the honest poor.  We have always had poor folks.  The poorest parts of our society live at an economic level that by 1930’s depression standards would have counted as comfortable middle class.  And yet the crime rate  – especially of violent offenses – in the hardest hit depression areas in the United States in the 30’s was roughly comparable to our safer modern neighborhoods.  Crime breeds in an environment of poverty all right, but it is moral poverty, not economic poverty that is the fundamental issue.


So what can we do?  Sermonize at the prison population?  Not such a bad idea by itself, but I wish it were so easy.  You will find that in dealing with an inmate defendant population, as I have, the practical, low risk approach is to adopt a non-judgmental attitude.  It’s a little like the medical model.  The doctor doesn’t typically look at a gunshot victim and say – “You dumb asshole, what were you doing in that bank with a gun?”  And, frankly, Public Defender’s don’t often approach a client interview in that spirit either.


You will also learn that the easy prisoners and the difficult ones do not automatically sort out along lines of the seriousness of their cases.  That nice guy killed his wife.  That asshole stole a tire from Big O.  Go figure.


What can you do?   Be aware of the problem.  Know the nature of the war.  Be sure of your own ground.  If you conduct your life with integrity, if you believe in right and wrong, and in the essential value and soundness of our laws and legal institutions, if you are not ashamed or embarrassed by your beliefs, that will come through in a hundred ways you are not even conscious of.  If you accomplish nothing else but to do your job well and allow yourself to reveal that there is moral ground in your life and you are standing on it, you will advance the cause.  You can’t throw a lifeline if you are drowning yourself.


We are all soldiers in this war.  And our weapons are our beliefs, our integrity, the quality of our lives, and the quality of the relationships of the people we deal with.  And with your help, the good guys will win.


You have chosen an important calling at an important time in history.  Don’t let it end at the conclusion of your shift. Get involved in your community and stay in touch with the people you have sworn to serve and protect.  You owe that to your family.  You owe that to yourself.



If you lacked basic respect for the law, if you didn’t care about the future, if you thought that morality is just something some old dudes made up, you wouldn’t be in this place at this time celebrating this graduation.   Looking over this group, seeing your faces, and knowing the quality and the esprit of the institution you have joined, I know you picked the right job.  And I can tell that the Sheriff and his staff have picked the right people.


Sheriff, you have done very well with this graduating class indeed.  Congratulations and Godspeed.


I salute you.


Jay Gaskill has a major novel coming out. Read more at http://www.jaygaskillauthor.com





By now, with president-elect Trump’s inauguration pending, these five articles have an eerie feel to them, as if I had been writing an alternative history novel, instead of chronicling the most disruptive U. S. political upset in modern times.


Neither political party will be the same after this. The soul-searching among the democrats has just begun, while the republicans are walking the policy tightrope of the century.


One of the most revelatory moments in the campaign was little noted. Trump was commenting about British PM Cameron’s plight in light of the Brexit vote. He said that Mr. Cameron was a good man, but that he had misjudged “the mood of the people.” The key to Trump’s astonishing success is that, whatever else one can say, he alone among all the political contenders in 2016 accurately judged “the mood of the people.”


There was another insightful comment by Michael Gerson in the Washington Post, also little noted.


“If this is a normal election — in which the composition of the electorate and the turnout of various groups roughly match recent presidential contests — Clinton’s argument should be enough. If this is an anti-establishment wave election, she has the worst possible political profile — boasting of her royal résumé during the French Revolution.”

The piece (published on July 29th, 2016) ended with – “This is an extraordinary political moment. Any reasonable Republican presidential contender other than Trump probably would be beating Clinton handily. Any reasonable Democratic contender other than Clinton probably would be beating Trump handily. The parties, in their wisdom, have chosen the untrusted against the unstable, the uninspiring against the unfit. Take your pick, and take your chances.”


Of course, this was not a “normal election,” it was a cataclysmic anti-establishment eruption.

For the record, I ended up voting for the Utah national security expert candidate, former CIA anti-terrorist specialist and investment banker, David Evan McMullin, knowing full well that he had no prayer of getting a single electoral college vote.,

As the Trump cabinet and advisor cadre fleshes out, I am only marginally reassured. My problem is not with the predictable conservative bent of the incoming administration. My concern from the beginning was that Trump, the showman, was making it up as he went, in effect that he was to be presiding over a stochastic presidency where policy is made up on the fly by a celebrity who, though shrewd, is not going to be up to the real demands of governance.


That ship has sailed. Note: Very, very few incoming presidents on the day of their inauguration have known a fraction of what the presidency demands of them. As always, the quality of the ensuing presidency has been a product of the quality of the presidential staff, and the willingness of the Chief Executive to listen and modify his or her positions accordingly. Trump’s elusive flexibility may be a virtue. Whether it can overcome his penchant for impulsiveness and risk-taking is the question of the day.


JBG – January 5, 2017



{- The HTM Version of this collection is posted http://jaygaskill.com/ATrumpQuintet.htm -}

{- The PDF Version of this collection is posted http://jaygaskill.com/ATrumpQuintet.pdf -}

A 911 Meditation After By Jay Gaskill

A Meditation on September 11, 2001






Jay B. Gaskill



SEPTEMBER 11, 2016


I was there, in Manhattan on September 11, 2001. As I write these words, the lessons of that terrible, transformative event of 2001 seem ever clearer to me:


  • Neither human capacity for bloody minded wickedness nor for heroic goodness can ever be underestimated.
  • Evil is a part of the human condition, one that a morally centered people can never afford to ignore.
  • One of Evil’s effects, especially when it is starkly exposed, is to produce a surge of goodness in response.
  • But the response of goodness decays without support.
  • Heroic goodness requires courage to recognize existential evil and confront it.
  • That, in turn calls us to the moral center, our ultimate support system, the health and vitality of which we are now called to reexamine.
  • The USA, as a center of heroic goodness, may well be Western Civilization’s last best hope.
  • The jury of history is still out.





“Today” (as I wrote the following 11 years ago)[1] we are called to remember the events of 9-11 while still in the shadow of a recent natural disaster, with its fresh wounds and recriminations. But all crises carry messages that we are meant to hear—but some messages are clearer than others. Today, four years later, we recall a terrible Tuesday in New York City.


My wife, Robyn, and I had flown to New York to attend a long Island wedding on the 8th and to spend a few days in Manhattan with her son and family.  We were set to leave on September 12th.  That didn’t work out.


If you awoke on the West Coast Tuesday morning, you might have been greeted by a version of this account from ABC News:


September 11 – In a horrific sequence of terrorist violence, four US passenger planes were apparently hijacked and crashed today, including two jets that flew into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, causing both to collapse.


In Washington, a plane crashed into the Pentagon, causing part of the building to collapse. A passenger plane also went down near Pittsburg.  There were no immediate details available on casualties, but thousands of people work in the buildings affected….


The details – even the bare timeline – are chilling.


[] At 8:45 AM Eastern Time, American Airlines Flight 11, a 767 from Boston to LA with 81 passengers, 9 flight attendants and 2 pilots, is hijacked and flies into the North Tower of the WTC, becoming a huge fireball.


[] At 9:03 a second 767 out of Boston with 56 passengers, 2 pilots and 7 flight attendants smashes into the South Tower and explodes.


[] By 9:17, New York closes its airports, tunnels and bridges. At 9:40 the FAA grounds all US flights, an unprecedented action.


[] 9:43: American Airlines Flight 77 from Dulles crashes into the Pentagon carrying 58 passengers and 6 crew.


[] 10:05: The entire South Tower, an inferno of burning aircraft fuel, completely collapses in a huge white cloud of smoke and dust.


[] 10:10: United flight 93, a 757 from Newark to San Francisco, having changed course, crashes in Pennsylvania with 38 passengers and 7 crew.


[] 10:13: The UN is evacuated.


[] 10:24: All inbound flights to the US are diverted to Canada.


[] 10:28 The North Tower collapses.  A huge white cloud of dust billows over lower Manhattan.


[] Mayor Giuliani evacuates Manhattan South of Canal Street.  The Mayor and evacuees walk out.


[] Sears Tower in Chicago and the Space Needle are evacuated.  Bits of office paper begin to fall over Brooklyn…


And the messages?

There were certain phone messages that morning — from passengers aboard flight 93[2] before it dived into a Pennsylvania field, and from the people trapped in the doomed upper floors of the Towers.  In essence they were the same: “I love you. Please take care of things…”

In moments of extremis, God is always somewhere in the mix: Divine messages are threaded in the warp and the woof of crisis and the Divine presence is embedded in the suffering, the heroism and hope.

September 11, 2001 is fixed in our memories because of context. This context is something our pets can clearly understand.  As Oliver Wendell Holmes once put it, “Even a dog knows the difference between being stumbled over and being kicked.”  9-11 was different from a natural disaster because people did it on purpose.

I wrote my children on September 15th by email from New York:  “I wish you had been with me,” I wrote. I described how it was on Monday night, September 10th, when we went to sleep in my stepson Nathan’s small Manhattan office. Not long before, Robyn and I had looked across Roosevelt Island at the Manhattan skyline, sipping wine with old classmates.  Monday night we drifted to sleep on a Murphy bed near a desk and a tiny bathroom. We were at 27th and Madison, about twenty short blocks from the World Trade Center.

When I opened my eyes in the dim room Tuesday morning, Robyn was still asleep. I quietly slipped out of bed, went to the desk chair and tapped on a keyboard.  Seconds later, I was staring at an odd color image. An airliner had been captured mid-collision, partly inserted in the side of a skyscraper. It was an absurdly tiny picture, not more than two inches on my screen; it framed the last horrific moment when most of that airline’s passengers were still alive.



                                    News trucks at St. Patrick’s Cathedral


“My God,” I said, waking Robyn. At that moment, about 9:07 AM (and more like 6 AM in my head) I hadn’t yet realized that there was a second plane.  My context was still shallow.

Minutes later, we were down in the main apartment, staring at the large screen. When it sank into my consciousness that a second airliner had struck the remaining tower, I could feel the context shifting under me like some tectonic plate.  People had done this: on purpose. We were in a different world.

Nathan’s little family was busy with mundane morning necessities, the bathroom and the coffee, and Robyn, was out – wisely – trying to find a working ATM. Then Nathan called out: “It went down! The tower went down!”

We gathered to stare at the screen, struggling to take in what had just happened.  When Robyn returned, she & Nathan went outside, and saw the people walking down the middle of the street, their shoes coated in fine white dust. When the second building went down, we would smell the dust for days; it was sterile, faintly electric, the sharp scent of ash forged in a crematorium. “Ash Tuesday” I thought. Ash Wednesday.  Ash Thursday


On 9-11, at 6 PM, we attended a hastily arranged memorial service in a small Episcopal Church near Union Square where the organist had been playing all day.  Hymn 719 is “America the Beautiful”.


The lyrics proved impossible to sing all the way through without choking up, especially the line—“for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved and mercy more than life”. We wept.  And we wept again at Sunday services at St Thomas on 5th Avenue.


As we walked through Manhattan over the next days, the mood had profoundly shifted. The images of the battalions of firefighters, EMT’s and police running into the maelstrom while thousands were being led out had exorcised all the demons of cynicism and pettiness.  What remained was a miraculous admixture of grief, compassion and admiration.  We became, in that time and place, one noble, generous people.  Candles were lit in every window; people were weeping openly; complete strangers opening up on a street corner; kindness and compassion were omnipresent.


Wednesday, as we wandered through Midtown, we stumbled onto holy ground.  Across from St. Francis Church, a fire wagon, Ladder Truck 24, was parked by its now cavernous, empty station.




The truck was covered in white powder, still piled high on the rear bumper. I walked around and around that truck, staring in wonder at the tracings in the dust. Loving fingers had left benedictions on every surface, words like “HONOR AND PRAISE TO N.Y.F.D.” and “WE OWE OUR LIVES TO YOU.”



The American flag was draped across the ladder. Candles and photos adorned the hood and grillwork of the truck.  A large black and white photo of a kind-faced man leaned against the fire station doorway. The station was empty; two solemn men stood watch. The picture was of a fire department Chaplain, Mychal Judge.


As we stayed on in Manhattan, unable to get a flight out, walking among the grief and shock, we encountered countless other shrines– in doorways, shop and apartment windows, on sidewalks.



  Union Square became the gathering place. It reminded me a little of Peoples’ Park in the late 60’s, except that our flag was for this time an ecumenical symbol, and was honored everywhere. People sang, sat quietly or chatted softly.


There was an unrolled scroll of butcher paper a block long, where hundreds of messages were written.




I watched a solemn little girl sitting, carefully writing on the scroll with her crayons.  There were many tears and many, many floating holy spaces….


I wrote this in my journal at the time:


“Evil is real. It came to this city, near the Manhattan apartment where we are staying, announcing itself in a succession of grotesquely surreal images of a monumental murder.


“Yet Good is real.  The last few days here have recharged my belief in the human capacity for heroism and virtue under duress.  It is an honor to be among the New Yorkers.  I now understand that evil is like a descending night flare on a battlefield, exposing the configuration of forces below.  Its terrible light clarifies the essence of things. In that actinic glare, all our differences melt into insignificance because, after all, they are just different versions of the good.”


Later, when our plane finally roared down the runway at JFK, the images of the window candles, the taped up photos of missing loved ones on the armory, on doorways, windows and poles, the long paper scroll in Union Square, the Ladder Truck 24 shrine, all played out in my mind.


As I looked out the window at the suddenly diminished Manhattan skyline, I realized that – for the moment – we had become a single people, whose disputes and differences were exposed as trivial. Then I imagined concentric circles radiating from ground zero: In the circle close in, people were profoundly changed, then further away people touched, less touched, and finally I imagined (and later met) the detached and disconnected. I entertained the deep hope for a new energy, a drawing in to faith communities sustained by the important truths that bind us.


To me it seemed so simple.  We are sustained in three deeply entwined relationships: our relationships with each other; our relationships with our own futures; and our relationship to ultimate being, to the God of all being.  It is the ultimate relationship that gives meaning and shape to the first two.  Belief, I realized, is like water.  If you let it freeze, something in you dies.  If you fail to hold it, something in you withers. You keep drinking from it or you die in a desert of your own making.


I wrote my children that. I added that we are held up in ultimate relationship. So I invited them to choose to believe: Believe that we are here to practice integrity with humor and humility, and to experience the journey of life, including all its pain and joy.  Believe that we are here to promote the Good, by respecting the integrity and favoring the health of all conscious beings, starting with our own. Believe we are here to recognize the reality and threatening nature of evil in an unfinished universe and to oppose it with character, intelligence, and courage. Believe we are brought here as children, and we are allowed to stay here to grow and become wise children.


I was changed by 9-11 because I saw a miracle happen when my fellow humans were caught in the descending glare of evil. It was a general awakening. Within the huge diversity of secular and religious perspectives that constitutes New York, I witnessed unity, kindness, and heartfelt resolve rise up from the ashes.  The Holy Spirit entered Manhattan in force and stayed for days.


We Christians are called by our baptismal covenant to renounce the evil powers of this world. As our airplane headed home, I knew with certainty that my optimism about the human condition was well founded. We mortal humans were so designed that evil’s appearance will continue to illuminate and call forth the good in us.


When we Anglicans say the Lord’s Prayer, we ask the Lord to “save us from the time of trial.” In preparing for this Sunday, I came on a list of the firefighters and police who charged into those buildings only to die.  Many climbed 70 floors carrying 100 pounds of gear.  Reporting for duty that day and responding to the call defines “time of trial.” They were called to a trial and each of them answered the call with courage.


I think of the passengers on flight 93, Newark to SFO, who were also called to a time of trial.  They, too, rose to the occasion and their courage undoubtedly spared the nation another disaster.  Robyn and I flew in on United. And we have taken that very flight 93 home. We may well have taken it again. We were spared our time of trial.


I’m sure that little of significance really happens on pure chance.  Were we led by “accident” to the very fire station where Mychal Judge had served as a Chaplain? I don’t believe that. Father Mychal, a Franciscan friar, was dearly loved by all the firefighters who knew him.


His picture is on the first page of those lost in the line of duty.  A happy 68 year old face smiles out at us, looking natty in the NYFD’s dress uniform.


Father Mychal was helping people get out of the first building before it collapsed. When he learned that some firefighters were still trapped inside, he rushed back in. There he found a gravely injured firefighter; he leaned over the fallen man to administer the last rites, removing his own helmet.




Mychal died at the instant he administered the last rites.


The firefighters who knew him say that Father Mike would have wanted to be at the gates to welcome all the brothers who would follow him to heaven that day.


Father Myke’s white fire helmet was received by Pope John Paul on November 10, 2001.


May God hold fast the souls of all who fell that day, especially those who answered the call to duty:


And may we never forget…


WHEN, LATER, we returned to the site, we saw that it had become a pilgrimage. Note the girder cross (above), preserved by workers.




011_9Then we visited Trinity Wall Street and St Paul’s Chapel, preserved intact in the very shadow of the falling buildings. It, too, had become a post-911 shrine.

Later still, we happened to visit the WTC Site in time for a special Memorial ceremony – where I took these pictures.






It was a such solemn salute, much deeper than ordinary patriotism.

I kept the picture below ↓ taken right after the attacks when we took the subway as close to ground zero as was then allowed.


I emailed my children soon after:

“The last few days here have renewed my belief in the human capacity for heroism and virtue under duress.  It is an honor to be among the New Yorkers.  I wouldn’t be anywhere else right now. Evil has too often been excused or ignored or defined away.  Yet it returns like a night flare on a battlefield, illuminating the configuration of forces.  That terrible light clarifies everything.   In its actinic glare, all the differences among the good melt into insignificance.”




Copyright © 2004, 2016 by Jay B Gaskill, all pictures were taken by the author, except for the Father Mychael and World Trade Center pictures which are from public domain news sources

[1]This is based on a talk by Jay Gaskill for a Memorial on September 11, 2005 at St. Marks’s Episcopal Church, Berkeley, CA — pictures and additional comments were added by the author in 2016.


[2] Robyn and I were familiar with flight 93, having taken it on earlier New York trips.



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.






►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———–






JBGAuthor 2

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.




MAY 10, 2026


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/ >.






                                                              ANALYSIS & COMMENTARY

By Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law


CONSPIRACY: “A secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful, (as in) a conspiracy to destroy the government”   Oxford Dictionary





After all, conspiracies are supposed to be covert. The “political arrangements” that shamefully misdirected the American people to the coming dead-end were carried out in broad daylight, weren’t they?  This was a true conspiracy by virtue of the willful concealment of agendas and consequences by the political class. Their deception was accomplished via omission, misdirection and prevarication…in other words, by deliberate deception. The classic definition of conspiracy covers the deceptive means by which our country has been brought to brink of a dumpster dive over a very steep fiscal cliff. 


Most, but not all members of the political class are directly culpable. Most of the rest of us are accountable through negligence. To be fair, there were voices of caution all along, but in the vast information blizzard, they were at best, a dim background noise. But silence and acquiescence of the major political figures, opinion leaders and media sources, make them the conspiracy’s enablers.


The problem is not trivial and its resolution is not postponable…for much longer: The US national debt now exceeds 19 TRILLION dollars. That is more than the United States’ annual gross domestic product. The annual interest payments on our 19 trillion dollar federal debt now exceed 229 BILLION dollars. That interest payment is just under half the total federal spending on Medicare. For perspective: The 2015 budget for Homeland Security is less than 40 billion.




Leaving aside the emergencies of The Civil War, WWI, and WWII, the first major wholesale buy-in to massive deficit spending was by President Lyndon Baines Johnson. After taking office due to the assassination of JFK in 1963, LBJ embarked on two major wars: a huge escalation of the Vietnam War, and a new domestic effort, the War on Poverty. Both financed by deficit spending.


Every year since then there were annual budget deficits, save only five budget surplus years (1969, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001). At no time was the general trend of increasing national debt reversed.


The overall national debt increased 70% during the terms of President Obama.


President Johnson was relying on Keynesian economic theory. The British Economist John Maynard Keyes (1883-1946) taught two generations of economists that a deficit is no big deal, because we “just owe the money to ourselves.”


But Keynes was developing his theories long before the rise of the vast international market and trade system, before the sale of US bonds to foreign powers and agents, before the US banking collapse of 2008, and before the catastrophic fiscal collapse of Iceland, Ireland and Greece – leaving Italy, Portugal and Spain in fiscal jeopardy. It turns out that the Keynesian economic solutions (i.e., just create more fiat currency to spur prosperity) no longer work. The international economic system has gotten in the way.


Every major producing country is playing the same game. Each country’s supply of fiat money is being competitively increased. This pattern is called competitive currency devaluation. At first, this strategy had win-win appeal: It promised to decrease the cost of the country’s exports on the market while it would devalue the debt that country owes to others.  Of course, eventually one does not loan to a country that is systematically devaluating its currency. The scheme has the same limitations and the same inevitably disastrous outcome of any of the other pyramid schemes it resembles.



  • Keynes proposed that a sovereign could simply make new money (we used to say “print” more money, but the process now is purely electronic) as if there are to be no consequences.  But there are consequences, often hidden, but very real.  To take a simple example: If the US suddenly doubled the money supply without doubling all the attendant costs of goods and services, the impact on the value of your income, savings and other retained goods would be an obvious devaluation.  The ensuing adjustments would be uneven, unfair, and unpredictable. A Keynesian inflation of the money supply is a deflation of the value your property and of debts owed you, in effect deflation without representation.  The inherent shell game in these measures is designed to conceal the consequences.  And that concealment is another lie. The same kind of consequences follow whenever the US borrows money to finance a deficit, then “eases” the task of repaying the borrowers by using new fiat money (think quantitative easement here). If anyone did that to you, it would be a form of fraud.


  • Members of the political class and their pet Keynesian experts have repeatedly told the media, the academy and the rest of us that the US would be able to grow itself out of the debt.  But wait: Our country’s total economic output has NOT grown as fast as the new national debt. The current US growth rate, as measured by the GNP is anemic at best.


  • Government economists have assured us that the national debt is a manageable problem as long as our country’s aggregate indebtedness’s below our total annual Gross National Product.  But wait: That ship had already sailed by 2006.


The Coming Political Reckoning


Have you noticed? None of the presidential aspirants have dared to mention the national debt, let alone, has any one of leading candidates come up with a serious proposal to deal with the problem.


Why? At least three reasons are in play:


  1. The candidates actually don’t understand the problem in any depth, and therefore are afraid to engage in the public square.
  2. The candidates in question have been in public life long enough to be perceived as part of the problem.
  3.  The candidates are at least smart enough to have figured out that all of the solutions will involve painful adjustments in taxation, spending, consumption and middle class prosperity.


This is why the major financial collapse events (think of bubbles popping with the force of an earthquake) always seem to catch policy makers by surprise: Many of them are well aware of the risk and understand the sacrifices needed, but are deliberately waiting until a catastrophe arrives to shake voters out of their complacency. This is the conspiracy of deliberate inaction.


The prospects of the US growing itself out of its indebtedness will not work …except in the fairy tale universe where: [1] The US begins to borrow prudently and US production of goods and services remain in constant demand in the world markets at profitable prices. [2] The cost of the US borrowing never gets out of hand. [Context: Things may already be out of hand in the sense that the annual cost of debt service, at the currently low rates, was “only” $200 billion in 2015. The Homeland Security budget was less. Any increase in the cost of borrowing will drive that number up, even if the US never borrows another dime.


So far, the US system has been perceived to be relatively more stable than its competitors. This only means that we are closer to the top of the pyramid in the international Ponzi scheme.


But that comfortable perch is rapidly eroding.  The cost of borrowing will certainly increase, probably early in 2017. If we default on the debt, we will not be able to borrow more.  If we do not default, we have just two choices: Pay our debtors with fiat money, in effect shorting them. Or pay them out of our actual tax revenues, ahead of other programs.


Either way, the day of reckoning will be at hand.


The most opaque of the candidates on this issue is Donald Trump, whose own fiscal behavior in the private sector has relied on bankruptcy as a business strategy. The only economically trained figure whose has been named in connection with the POTUS race is the new Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, so far a non-candidate. Congressman Ryan is associated with a number of creative fiscal solutions of a gradualist nature.




If the US still has time, a fiscal and market meltdown can be averted by incremental imposition of fiscal discipline and “tax reform” (carefully structured tax increases), spread over ten years. But there is a caution: It is a house of cards. Everything is subject to the vagaries of the international market. The economic playing field is complicated because the US is not the only player running the game using fiat money and over-borrowing. Our country’s situation is more problematic that it was at the end of WWII, when the USA had the world’s largest undamaged manufacturing base, one readily convertible to civilian use, and there was a huge pent up demand for manufactured goods. Fortunately, we had a prudent and competent consensus leader in the person of General Dwight Eisenhower.


The bottom line:


No candidate for POTUS who does not already have a world class economic team, or who is not personally endowed with the requisite economic savvy, should be elected President of the US. 


Amateur hour is over.




Copyright © 2016 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law


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

PIERCING THE WEB OF DECEPTION The Iran Atomic Bomb Program Series Continues



The Iran Atomic Bomb Program Series Continues,

In which the case is made:


  • That Iran is lying;
  • That the Administration is hiding the truth to cover up US weakness;
  • That a nuclear Iran means a nuclear Middle East,
  • That a nuclear war will then be virtually inevitable.


{Links to the first three parts of this series are in the endnote.[i]}





Stopping the Iranian Atomic Bomb program COLD before it’s too late



The Iranians are trying to deceive the US.  The Administration is simultaneously trying to deceive the Iranians and the American people. Many key elected representatives of the American people in the House and Senate are deceiving themselves and/or each other, all while attempting to deceive the American people.


None of this is working perfectly.



There are a number of deception techniques in common use:


Magicians use distraction very effectively, by drawing our attention to something interesting; this is the use of a foreground distraction while working a deception in the background.



Politicians also use distraction, by shifting the issue in question to something important, in order to distract us from an embarrassing fact or concealed position. We typically leave the encounter without realizing that our main concerns were avoided. For example: Someone is accused of erasing email evidence that could reveal how negligent security for a besieged embassy was covered up. The deceptive response is feigned outrage about an invasion of personal space, invoking a faux issue – “Can’t public officials have a personal zone of privacy?”


Leaders and spokespersons employ deliberate ambiguity as another form of deception. Consider this answer to pointed questions about whether a government agency was caught off guard by a terrorist attack or just a disgruntled mob that got out of hand: “No terrorist groups are claiming responsibility.” Such disclaimers are designed to seem to answer the question, while hiding the truth – such as reports that there was evidence of advance planning and the use of military weapons. And consider the famous example of a sitting president responding to charges of improper use of power with “I am not a crook!” Nixon’s famous answer was true, but beside the point.


Legislators use a more interesting and prevalent form of deception – the “position fake maneuver.” This is all too common among elected officials who “take a position” knowing that it is just for show. A recent example: some red state democrats in congress were allowed by democratic leaders to vote against the administration on Obama Care, when the head count showed that their votes were not needed. Thus, they were allowed to appear to oppose the measure for the benefit of their red state constituents. This is a typical maneuver in the current political culture which gives as much credit to a gesture, stance or position, as to an accomplishment.


Commentators are not without sin. For them, there is the “premature declaration of failure”, the “I am with you, but we have already lost” ploy.  This sort of thing becomes harmfully deceptive whenever there is still a possibility of not losing, especially when the maneuver sucks the wind out of the proponents with whom the speaker purports to be allied.





In the referenced previous articles (see the endnote), I have argued that this administration is still attempting to cover up and distract us from the obvious fact that the Iran-atomic bomb deal is a capitulation that resulted from self-inflicted weakness. The functional weaknesses of the inspection regime and fragility of the delicate web of “snap back” sanctions are a charade.  It is as if the administration has erected an unguarded tent wall around the violent inmates of a maximum security prison, relying on a small cadre of local, mostly unarmed police stations thirty miles away to address the inevitable escapes.  We are told not to worry: financial incentives will keep the prisoners happy.


All of the mistakes and deceptions that have led to this ludicrous, but dire situation were the work of a cadre of enablers of the Iran atomic bomb program. These are the men and women, inside and outside the administration, whose negligence, timidity and magical thinking has legitimized Iran’s program to become an atomic bomb wielding power; provided for increased funding that this rogue regime will use for regional terrorism; and that virtually guarantees an Iranian breakout into nuclear power status at a time of its choosing.






Almost certainly, the answer is yes.


Mr. Obama was so firmly against the military option that his acolytes were undoubtedly slow to confront him with the obvious truth – that the Iranians were making such rapid progress that we could no longer rely on the stale, one-year breathing time estimate. When breakout time shrunk to weeks, a moment of decision had arrived. On a brief but ultimately unsustainable basis, international monetary sanctions were urgently increased. But it appeared that the Iranian military had developed electronic countermeasures (see below) capable of disrupting the aim of our bumper-busting bombs (we apparently have now defeated those measures, or have we? — see below).


As a result, all internal discussion of a military option was shut down; and the negotiations path (conceived by then as the only available option) was augmented by multi-billion dollar incentives (read hostage payments here).


Obviously, the administration was attempting to bluff the Iranian’s into believing that the sanctions would resolutely hold and that a realistic and robust military option was still on the table.  Neither was true, of course, and the Iranians soon smelled American weakness and began winning bargaining concessions (like those weakening inspections and slowing down the so called “snap-back” sanctions, and other concessions that the administration has earlier ruled out).


Then a disinformation campaign was undertaken to overwhelm opponents of the deal. That campaign has failed. At his writing, a majority of the American people and their elected representatives are not sold on the claim that the agreement will actually stop the rogue Iranian regime from obtaining the atomic bomb.


New York Times columnist David Brooks, a moderate conservative, sometime supporter of the Obama administration, has just acknowledged that the terms of the pending agreement amount to a “partial surrender” to Iran.


As Brooks succinctly points out, the announced American objectives were:


… to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power… to force it to dismantle a large part of its nuclear infrastructure… to take away its power to enrich uranium…to close the Fordo enrichment facility…to come clean on all past nuclear activities by the Iranian military… shut down Iran’s ballistic missile program… to have “anywhere, anytime 24/7” access to any nuclear facilities Iran retains… not phase down sanctions until after Iran ends its nuclear bomb-making capabilities.


Ever one of these objectives has been effectively bargained away.


Democratic Senator Charles Schumer has come out against the deal. Outlining his rationale on the website Medium, Schumer said he would vote against the deal “after deep study, careful thought and considerable soul-searching.” His opposition centers on the fact Iran would be able to build a nuclear weapon after 10 years. And, Schumer says, under the deal, inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites was not “anywhere, anytime.”




I am an admirer of David Brooks, but his over-careful deference to this president and no doubt to the NYT editorial staff, allows him to fall into the premature defeat form of deception. Is it too late? Were we really defeated? As I develop at the end of this piece, the answers are, not and no.



Now, let’s return to examine some of the major deceptions afoot.









CONSIDER these revelations…


“The Wall Street Journal reported in 2012 that according to Pentagon war planners the 30,000-pound (13,607 kg) bunker buster wasn’t powerful enough to destroy some fortified Iranian nuclear facilities. So work reportedly began to upgrade the bomb’s design and guidance systems.  According to senior officials, the results show the improved bomb—when dropped one on top of the other—is now more capable of penetrating fortified nuclear facilities in Iran or in North Korea, The Wall Street Journal reported. The Pentagon also designed the bunker buster to challenge Iran’s Fordow facility, which is built into a mountain to protect it from potential airstrikes.”


“Upgraded electronic countermeasures have been added to the weapon to prevent jamming of its guidance systems by Iran, the source said. Electronic jammers could be allegedly used to throw an incoming bomb off target. It’s believed that the above mentioned measures will allow the destructive weapon to be targeted with a precision previously possible only for far smaller guided US bombs.”


The takeaway caution: The Pentagon is looking at a very secure Iran facility, defended by its position inside a mountain, and by electronic defenses that “it is believed” have now been overcome.


And note Secretary Kerry’s (possibly accidental revelation) in the US Senate.


“Secretary of State John Kerry says exercising a military option to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons would be extraordinarily complicated for the United States and that Washington would be doing it without the support of U.S. allies.


“Kerry said: ‘Not on your life — no way.’


“However, under questioning from Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, Kerry said that if the nuclear deal is implemented and Iran violates it, the U.S. would have more justification to exercise a military option.


“Moreover, Kerry said U.S. allies would support a military response in that circumstance. And he said that because of the additional inspections required under the agreement being reviewed by Congress, there would be more information about the best way to target military weapons to destroy Iranian nuclear weapons capabilities.”


This reveals that the administration is worried that it has dithered too long, that the Iranian’s are too far along to be easily stopped.  Almost certainly, the deal is propelled by a desperate attempt to put the onus of failure on a subsequent administration.


Most likely, the military experts are unwilling to give the president an iron clad warranty.  This is a replay of Obama’s months-long hesitation to pull the trigger on Bin Laden. Even if he were told that the bunker-busting bombs were 99% certain to be effective, this president would still dither, seeking refuge in two doubtful Claims, to wit:


[1] That Iran could rebuild in a few years (but – I am compelled to pint out – not if the sanctions are strong enough), and –


[2] The patently false claim that the agreement provides a longer effective period of protection.


For reasons that I will develop, some administration advisors are reasonably, but secretly worried that the agreement could become ineffective even before Obama leaves office.





Almost certainly, yes, it is.


The consensus among the experts is that the Iranian program had covertly produced a cache of 20% enriched Uranium, a state of enrichment effectively very close to the final bomb making stage. In its gaseous state, this cache could be weaponized in short order using the part of Iran’s existing array of centrifuges.


“Under a November 2013 temporary accord, the International Atomic Energy Agency verified that Iran eliminated its known stockpiles of 20 percent-enriched uranium, which can be used to make medical isotopes and to power research reactors but can also be purified to weapons-grade at short notice.” (note my emphasis – known – meaning revealed to the Agency). [1]



How much 20% enriched uranium is Iran retaining? No one can rule out that the retained cache can fuel several atomic bombs. Where is the cache hidden? No one can definitively say. We are hearing the claim that Iran is keeping this cache of 20% enriched uranium in a less available (i.e., non-gaseous) form.


By late 2011, Iran had installed hundreds of centrifuges at Fordo and had begun enriching uranium to 20 percent, just shy of bomb purity. By 2012, the number of centrifuges at the underground plant had soared to more than 2,700, though only 696 were in use.

The deep site represented a bold move in Iran’s war of nerves with the West. So much rock covered the enrichment halls that they could withstand all but the most powerful bombs. And Tehran, whenever it wanted, could throw another 2,000 centrifuges into enrichment.


In late 2013, the negotiations began on limiting Iran’s nuclear program and lifting economic sanctions, and Tehran agreed to stop purifying uranium to 20 percent at Fordo, immediately reducing the danger of rapidly crossing the red line. Instead, enrichment would be kept to less than 5 percent, a concentration often used in generating electricity.

Many nuclear experts and American officials expected that the negotiations would end with Fordo’s complete dismantlement.





But Fordow is not being shut down, under the pending agreement.


Only the Iranians know just how large this 20% enriched pre-bomb uranium cache is (it easily could be several hundred kilograms, enough material that could be quickly enriched to make up to eight bombs[ii]). It will be child’s play to hold back enough 20% enriched material to jump start an atomic bomb manufacture in the multi-week time-window during which the inspection regime is caught in a bureaucratic tangle; and the international community dithers about sanctions.




Obviously, the Iran’s dismal prior record of misconduct is being buried for political reasons.


Revelation of the staggering scope and deviousness of the Iranian regime’s policies and practices of lies, concealment, misdirection and deception will expose the blatant inadequacy of the pathetically inadequate inspection process mandated by the agreement.


Is truth to be sacrificed on the altar of misplaced trust?




It is reasonable to assume (and suicidally naïve to deny) that Iran is probably keeping several hundred kilograms of 20% enriched uranium in a military facility in which is does not agree to allow inspections.  At some time of the regime’s choosing, presumably after the billions of embargoed dollars have been released and the international sanctions begin to unravel; it will execute a plan to rush the final enrichment process to conclusion. Our only warning will be some disagreement about inspections, a lot of diplomatic kerfuffle, the “temporary” eviction of inspectors on some pretext, and a frantic race to deploy a nuclear arsenal (recall the regime is permitted ballistic missiles under the agreement). In the minds of the radical mullahs who govern Iran, their triumphal declaration of nuclear status will stay the hand of the USA and all allies. It will be a game changer.  A terror sponsoring regime with nuclear retaliatory capability will have emerged on stage, suddenly off limits to any attack on its territory.  A nuclear arms race in the region will almost certainly follow.  And given the inherent instability of the region, a war – a very large and deadly war, inevitably nuclear – will ensue.



A correspondent that I respect has reminded me of the dismal history of non-proliferation to date. After the Russians acquired the bomb, we acquiesced when the Chinese joined the club, and were not particularly concerned when the French and British followed.  The Israelis were given a secret pass.


Then in fairly rapid succession, some patently irresponsible regimes slipped by, principally Pakistan and Korea, and ultimately India followed.


South Africa is the one example of a regime voluntarily leaving “Club Nuke.”


Each unstable or irresponsible member of that club increases the possibility of a nuclear exchange.  And we now know that even a “modest” nuclear war could trigger a nuclear winter that would blight agriculture and starve hundreds of millions of men, women and children. (See Additional reading links below)


To date, no world power has been willing to use military force to prevent a rogue regime from going nuclear.


Few countries have that capability.  But we do.


As I put it to my correspondent.


Humanity will probably not survive even a modest nuclear exchange. This comes from the research of the climate scientists who have reworked the Cold War nuclear winter scenario, using modern computer modeling.


See- http://jaygaskill.com/dot2dot/2011/10/24/averting-nukistan-avoiding-islamageddon/ .


Even the Pakistan arsenal alone (probably a small fraction thereof) if detonated in urban areas would trigger a global cooling that would essentially stop agriculture for a year.  One estimate is that 1 billion would starve.


Any student of history will be able to predict the other consequences – word war, the possibly fatal weakening of civilization.


So I choose to frame the problem not as “non-proliferation” but as interdiction of rogue regimes access to world-killing technologies.


The crew of the Star Ship Enterprise would not allow primitives to have a photon torpedo, and we shouldn’t allow mad mullahs to deploy nukes.


So we start here.  Now. …Partly because we must draw the line.  …Partly because we actually have the military means to make interdiction work.  Partly because that lesson will not be lost on the other rogue regimes that aspire to nuclear glory.


Among the questions that will be posed by the surviving later generations, if we fail to do the right thing now, are these two:


What were you thinking? Did you realize that you almost wiped out our future?





Chances are fair that, by Inauguration Day, 2017, Iran will not have been able to construct a working atomic bomb, capable of being delivered to a target.  But the fuse will be short and public opinion may or may not be ready for kinetic sanctions, i.e., air strikes on key locations within Iran.


So our task in the meantime is three-fold:


(1) Do whatever we can to bolster support in the Congress to reverse the concessions made in Mr. Obama’s arrangement with Iran;


(2) get Congress to redouble the sanctions that brought the Iran radical mullahs to the table in the first place;


(3) whether the foregoing is successful or not, apply relentless pressure so that all the leading candidates for POTUS (including Mrs. Clinton, if she becomes the democratic nominee) are ready, willing and able to win, meaning to bring Iran firmly into the non-nuclear power category, by any means necessary.


No presidential candidate who is unwilling to pull the trigger to stop Iran from getting an atomic bomb should be trusted with protecting American security. 


Iran will be but a seemingly small, but crucially important, struggle in the much larger one – to keep the existing nuclear arsenals under the control of sane and responsible leadership; and where possible, to reduce or eliminate the atomic bomb arsenals of the most dangerous among them, principally Korea and Pakistan.


The risk of a regional atomic war must be reduced to zero within the next fifteen years or the risk of a conflict cascade leading to war and massive starvation will become unacceptably high. This means that Iran must be the last major attempt of a country to “go nuclear.” And that attempt must not be allowed to succeed.


In the meantime, Israel needs to have the means and support to defend itself, especially where a potential nuclear attack is concerned.  Iran is not the only threat, as long as Korea or Pakistan are available to offer covert material and technical support to non-state actors interested in using nukes for terrorist objectives.




Our survival requires that we never again succumb to the illusion of “fortress America” isolation.  The irony of the day is that the Welsh-English poet, John Dunne (1572-1673) has become the poet of the nuclear age.


“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man 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 thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”


Assume for a bleak moment that we fail.  …That a nuclear war ensues. …And assume that somehow, we are spared an attack. But we must nevertheless get through the chaotic post-war period during with a huge part of the world’s population is out of food, when basic foodstuffs in the USA are drastically curtailed.


Our best survival advice is to do what many of my LDS friends have been quietly doing for their families for years: Stockpile food – that is, stockpile, store, sort and periodically replenish a full year’s supply of food for you and your family.


Then pray that this was an unnecessary precaution.


As a science fiction writer and a futurist, some of this seems all too real in my imagination. But I refuse, absolutely refuse to give up on us, the human race, or to blithely assume the good people, who have built and sustained the greatest civilization this planet has yet seen, can somehow “make it through” by just trusting incompetent, imprudent officials, elected and non-elected.


With all our follies and flaws, I love this country and the good people here and elsewhere all over the planet. I will not, I cannot give up.


Nor should you.






My Jewish friends teach their children to never forget the holocaust.


I can never forget being in Manhattan on the morning of 9-11-2001, close enough to smell the dust and see the tears.  It was an epiphany for me. As I reflected on the deeper meaning of the event, I wrote:


Evil clarifies.


I was in Manhattan on September 11, 2001and remained there for several days afterwards. When we humans are confronted with large scale evil, the experience is illuminating, much as a descending night flare on a battlefield reveals the configuration of forces around us. Our many differences are exposed as different versions of the good.


I believe that our capacity to recognize evil is innate and allows us to “reverse engineer” if you will the core affirmations that evil in its various forms seeks to deny or destroy.


When confronting prospective evil the core nature of the threat matters.  Think of an earthquake or tornado, and contrast an example of large scale, human directed malevolence, like the Nazi death camps or the Pol Pot massacres. In common natural disasters, structures and the physical basis for life are imperiled.  Our response is calibrated accordingly.


When purposeful human malevolence looms, we are threatened on the immediate physical level, but we are also attacked on the level of our deepest values. This is why true evil draws us back to our core values. 


Any recognized confrontation with evil illuminates the core ethical values that tend to unite all that it threatens. 




The ruling clique of Iran, a small country in the thrall of murderous, authoritarian religious zealots, actually are advocating and pursuing a policy that closely resembles that of Adolph Hitler, the personification of 20th century evil. And we are the Great Satan?



The lives of Jesus of Nazareth and Hillel the Elder overlapped in the first century.  Both were Jews. They lived in a region that has spawned radical Islam, a malignant development in the Muslim faith whose fervent acolytes kill Christians, Jews, and regard the USA as evil.  This is a complete moral inversion.


We live in a cultural atmosphere of moral relativism, but some moral questions are bright line clear. This is one of them. Evil is real, and it has captured a murderous, militant part of Islam. And the resulting jihad is enslaving women, murdering children and other innocents.


“…whoever may cause to stumble one of those little ones who are believing in me, it is better for him that a weighty millstone may be hanged upon his neck, and he may be sunk in the depth of the sea.”  Jesus



If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And when I am for myself, then what am “I”? And if not now, when? Hillel


Yet too many of our leaders temporize…




It is said that the major decisions in a democratic republic are made by a critical mass of the informed and motivated.  You, my friends, are in that number. But you are not yet a working critical mass.  The case for preventing the radical Islamist in Iran from going nuclear and against putting our faith is a deeply flawed international accord has been made. What remains to be done? This case needs to connect with far more people that it has.


If you have this essay helpful, please get this and the earlier essays into the hands of the people who need to be informed and persuaded.


I can hear the clock ticking, can you?


J. B. G.




Copyright © 2015 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law




Further reading-





[i] Part One- Nuancing To Armageddon – Http://Jaygaskill.Com/Nuancingarmageddon.Htm //

Part Two The Alternative Is Winning – Http://Jaygaskill.Com/Thealternativeiswining.Htm //

Part Three – The Emperor Has No Clothes – A Survival Guide – http://jaygaskill.com/IranBombPartThree.htm

[ii] “Number of first generation implosion bombs … 8,715 kilograms could fuel, if further enriched: 8” See – http://www.iranwatch.org/our-publications/articles-reports/irans-nuclear-timetable




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








Yes, we need to worry:


A That Iran is lying;

B That the Administration is hiding the truth to cover up US weakness;

C That a nuclear Iran means a nuclear Middle East, and will eventually lead to war.






 – http://jaygaskill.com/TheAlternativeIsWining.htm



 – http://jaygaskill.com/IranBombPartThree.htm