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Introducing

CREATIVITY & SURVIVAL

Building a World Renaissance

Using the American Model

By

Jay B Gaskill

We and many parts of the politically correct Western developed cultures, fail somehow to appreciate the value of our own legacy.  We speak blithely of freedom but miss the even larger issue.  “What is that?” you ask.

I’ve been working on two articles for about a year: The first is released today.

Creativity and Survival is addressed to anyone who is serious about the long term future of civilization.  In it I make the case that historical circumstances made America the universal model for ongoing creative change; and I introduce the idea of “the creative imperative” as the idea that will rescue Western civilization from its ambivalent, multicultural malaise.

I rely on historical examples and a review of the creative process to show that the human creative enterprise cannot be confined to any particular modality – it includes the arts, commerce and technology.  Moreover it tends to flourish only under special conditions that include robust protections from authoritarian interference, whether local or general, and it thrives under the conditions of protected liberty that safeguard the creative process from censorship, bureaucratic control and intellectual property theft.  The universal goal of fostering creative civilizations means that the idea of American Exceptionalism is not jingoism, but the epicenter of an uncompleted world revolution. The American model will become the vanguard of “the creative imperative”

Creativity and Survival” is a 15 page study.  Read or download at these Links:

[] as a pdf download, printable with graphic

LINK <http://jaygaskill.com/CreativityAndSurvival.pdf>

[] as an on-line, printable htm file

LINK <http://jaygaskill.com/CreativityAndSurvival.htm>

[] as a Blog post

LINK < http://jaygaskill.com/411/>

The follow-up piece, dealing with practical implications, especially for politics and policy, follows in March.  Note March 2, 2011.

Jay B Gaskill

THE STATE OF THE UNION – WAITING FOR OBAMA 5.0

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And

→The Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com

All contents, unless otherwise indicated are

Copyright © 2011 by Jay B. Gaskill

LINK TO THIS ARTICLE OR FORWARD IT TO OTHER READERS, AS YOU WISH.

Also feel free to PRINT IT FOR YOUR PERSONAL USE….

Otherwise,

The author’s permission to publish all or part of this article is needed.

License to print copies for use in group discussions is usually given on request.

For all permissions, comments or questions, please contact Jay B. Gaskill, attorney at law, via e mail at law@jaygaskill.com

UPDATE —

The full text of the president’s State of the Union Address and Congressman Ryan’s Response is now available on The Policy Think site at this LINK: http://jaygaskill.com/SOUText2011andResponse.htm

Print Version – http://jaygaskill.com/SOUWaitingForObama5.0.htm

WE STILL HAVE ONLY ONE PRESIDENT AT A TIME AND I STILL WANT THIS ONE TO SUCCEED.  I AM ROOTING FOR OBAMA 5.0 TO EMERGE.

THE STATE OF THE UNION – WHAT DO WE LOOK FOR?

Mr. Obama speaks to the congress and the nation in a few hours about the State of our Union.   The facts are well known.  We are deep in sovereign debt with a sick economy, and – in spite of the apologies coming from the White house, or perhaps because of them, the US has fewer willing friends and allies than under then former administration.

The real questions for those of us who watch the speech include these three —

  • “Where do we go from here?”
  • “What has our president learned?”
  • “What will he do differently?”

Looking for Obama 5.0

In an article posted August 9, 2008, I asked, Who is Obama?  LINK: < http://jaygaskill.com/WhoIsObama.htm >.  I then sketched several competing versions and indicated that, at that moment, we just can’t be sure who our nation’s leader really is.

Since that day in 2008 when I asked myself that question, Mr. Obama has learned not to trust his future to a certain San Francisco congresswoman, and has begun to come to terms with the new House leadership and a more centrist Senate.

I am certain that he and we are feeling the cumulative weight of the three trillion dollar fiscal crater into which the attempts to borrow our way through the current deep, deep recession have consigned us.

And for better or for worse, many of Mr. Obama’s key advisors have left his administration.

As he prepares to deliver his second “State of the Union” address to the assembled Congress, here are the four competing versions of Mr. Obama, as they appeared in my 2008 piece.

Obama 1.0

The decent liberal-minded young man, with some moderate instincts:  This is the character that fate has surrounded – it appears – with naive, left-minded advisors, who currently have his ear.

Obama 2.0 – The ambitious, narcissistic chameleon

Obama 3.0 – The closet arch-leftist

Obama 4.0 – The political lightweight…    

Then I asked –

“Just how much on-the-job growth can we reasonably expect of this president?  Jimmie Carter clung to his received wisdom with a stubborn righteousness bordering on folly.  JFK was chagrined by his mistakes, learned from them and regained his balance.  Harry Truman, having been ill prepared by FDR, was thrust into a series of grave crises, but drew on his tough prairie character, his keen instincts for negotiations, a humble awe for the magnitude of the office he had not sought, and became the tough, indefatigable student who grew stronger and smarter with each challenge.”

I concluded with the suggestion that “our best hope resides in the emergence of Obama 5.0 or 6.0

Obama 5.0

The humble, adaptable patriot: This is a conscientious leader, not obsessed with his image, willing to live with his mistakes, eager to learn from them, actually and actively seeking out and listening to and actively considering advice outside his ideological and social circle.

Obama 6.0

The neo-populist chameleon, pledged to build the successful American that most voters want on the terms that most voters expect:  This is a political survivor with a deep respect for the populist currents now afoot, willing to break with the elites in both parties as necessary to restore American as a preeminent world economic and military power.

And I concluded with this thought –

“Because this president’s surface image is tightly managed, nothing authentic has leaked out that would suggest that there is any serious internal policy debate, let alone presidential soul searching, nothing in other words, that offers any hope in a significant change of direction.”

Chastened or Just Chaste?

When Mr. Obama ran for the office he now holds, his relevant experience – especially as an executive – was weaker than anyone who had held the presidency in the 20th or 21st centuries. See my piece, http://jaygaskill.com/MQ.htm in which I explored the executive experience of every president during that period.  The result ranked Mr. Obama – using objective criteria – at the bottom of the five weakest POTUS resumes of modern times.

Things have changed.  By virtue of serving in office and – to be sure, making mistakes – Mr. Obama is now well qualified in terms of executive experience to hold the position of POTUS.  [He started with less experience than a part-term Alaska governor, and ends the period with more experience than Bill Clinton had when he was first elected.]

Hopefully, this president is wiser for his hard won experience, especially from his worst lapse.  It was a function of inexperience, lack of connections and weak staff support: The new president, eager to make his mark while he had the votes, left the remake of the entire US health care system to the democrats in Congress – and their hyper partisan’ left leaning staff – all with only limited professorial guidance from the White House.

This was not unlike the naïve homeowner, who trusts all the details of a major remodel to a contractor recommended by a deceased aunt.  At the end of the day, almost no one, including the president, had even read the entire bill.  It was a train wreck of epic proportions and led to the forced retirement of hundreds of democrats.

But something good comes from every mistake. Like Bill Clinton after the congress changed hands, Mr. Obama may benefit from opposition pressure, especially if it drives policy to the center.

Americans now want to hear a more conciliatory tone this evening from their President, but they expect this president to behave as a centrist who can get things done, not to fail or make thing worse as an unreconstructed quixotic leftist.

I can report for many silent democrats close to the situation who are gravely worried about this presidency and its possible long term damage to their party.

Americans are hoping that the man they thought they were voting for is back – Obama 1.0, the decent liberal-minded young man, with moderate instincts, this time with better advisors.

Americans are hoping for Obama 5.0 to emerge, the humble, adaptable patriot, a conscientious leader, no longer obsessed with his image, willing to live with his mistakes, eager to learn from them, actually and actively seeking out and listening to and actively considering advice outside his ideological and social circle.

By now the country has been made aware of the grim reality.  Most Americans grasp the immense scale of federal indebtedness, and most are pre-reconciled to strong measures to bring the country’s balance sheet into the black.

We have just been reminded that Americans are beginning to spend again for goods and services.   See http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-10-01/consumer-spending-in-u-s-incomes-increased-more-than-forecast-in-august.html .  Some perspective is in order. Our aggregate personal discretionary spending hovers at roughly ½ trillion, while the increase in US federal indebtedness over the last two years was 3 trillion.

Background – http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703906204575027181656362948.html

Mr. Obama’s deficit commission has produced a starting point for a difficult discussion and an even more difficult implementation.  Most of the country is keenly aware of the trap we’re in:  Raising taxes in any significant way will risk aborting any recovery.  Not raising taxes will require even more dramatic cuts in the federal budget.  The stark reality \is that borrowing about 40% of everything this government spends will not buy a recovery, but it eventually will hasten monetary collapse.

Americans are skeptical about grandiose promises.  The president’s speech cannot do more than signal an attitude and a direction.  The pre-spin is that he intends to present himself as “more centrist.”

What I am looking for:

  • Specific, clear statements that will generate accountability;
  • Authentic openness to authentically new approaches;
  • Humility.
  • The response by Congressman Ryan from Wisconsin, a truth-teller with economics training. His contribution will not be the ordinary partisan exercise.  Ryan, who has been praised by David Brooks and even favorably acknowledged by Mr. Obama, is a truth-teller.  That the GOP establishment has selected him to respond to the State of the Union is a measure of our desperate times.

Even a great pudding recipe requires a cook.

JBG

Palin Update

Yesterday’s article is a note of admiration for sudden charismatic leadership, unfairly attacked fro the wrong reasons, and a strong caution about the abrupt assumption of serious executive responsibilities.

The latter is the same caution that would have applied to Early Jimmie Carter, early Bill Clinton, Mr. Obama and several other POTUS candidates whose executive experience and initial staff depth was deficient at the very outset of their administrations.  Mrs. Clinton cautiously pointed this deficiency out during the primaries.  Governor Palin, an actual governor, was a better potential executive than the untried Junior Senator from Illinois.  But merely running a small state for one half a term does not constitute adequate pre-POTUS training.  I developed these themes in two realier posts that frame the context of this Palin piece.  Check http://jaygaskill.com/PRESIDENCYGAMBLE.htm

and http://www.jaygaskill.com/MQ.htm.

I have great admiration for Governor Palin, but – as of this writing – her POTUS resume needs some gravitas.  That said, she is one of those history-making figures who has a great deal more to contribute.  Anyone who dismisses her is making a mistake.

JBG

TEA PARTY POPULISM and THE PALIN PARADOX

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As Published On

→Dot to Dot Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.dot2dot

…..connecting the dots….

→The Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com

All contents, unless otherwise indicated are

Copyright © 2011 by Jay B. Gaskill

LINK TO THIS ARTICLE OR FORWARD IT TO OTHER READERS, AS YOU WISH.

Also feel free to PRINT IT FOR YOUR PERSONAL USE….

Otherwise,

The author’s permission to publish all or part of this article is needed.

License to print copies for use in group discussions is usually given on request.

For all permissions, comments or questions, please contact Jay B. Gaskill, attorney at law, via e mail at law@jaygaskill.com

Read the print version posted at this LINK: http://jaygaskill.com/TeaPartyPalinParadox.htm

This article is a note of admiration for sudden charismatic leadership, unfairly attacked fro the wrong reasons, and a strong caution about the abrupt assumption of serious executive responsibilities.

The latter is the same caution that would have applied to Early Jimmie Carter, early Bill Clinton, Mr. Obama and several other POTUS candidates whose executive experience and initial staff depth was deficient at the very outset of their administrations.  Mrs. Clinton cautiously pointed this deficiency out during the primaries.  Governor Palin, an actual governor, was a better potential executive than the untried Junior Senator from Illinois.  But merely running a small state for one half a term does not constitute adequate pre-POTUS training.  I developed these themes in two realier posts that frame the context of this Palin piece.  Check http://jaygaskill.com/PRESIDENCYGAMBLE.htm

and http://www.jaygaskill.com/MQ.htm.

I have great admiration for Governor Palin, but – as of this writing – her POTUS resume needs some gravitas.  That said, she is one of those history-making figures who has a great deal more to contribute.  Anyone who dismisses her is making a mistake.

JBG

TEA PARTY POPULISM

&

THE PALIN PARADOX

After the smoke has settled and the new congress has begun its work, some of the early myths about the Tea Party movement can be dismissed.  It was not a ploy by the republican establishment or a cabal of conservative ideologues.  Nor was it stirred up by a single charismatic leader.  It was an authentic, quintessentially American populist gathering, very loosely coordinated, self funded and self motivated.

It would be far too simplistic to describe it as just another anti-government protest or as a libertarian uprising. But the Tea Party movement hardly fits the pattern of the earlier populist uprisings that demanded help from a heartless government.

It had more in common with the Jarvis tax revolt in California (1978) that led to the property tax reforms of Proposition 13, and to its namesake, the Boston Tea Party rebellion (1773) against British tariffs and trade restrictions that led to the American Revolution.

The Tea Party movement was a spontaneous, grass roots alliance of the productive regular citizens against the manipulative classes in Washington DC and Wall Street.  But it was historically unique.  With the brief exception of Ross Perot’s quixotic presidential campaigns of 1992 and 1996, there is no record of a major populist movement in our history that made fiscal responsibility a major tenet.

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has been strongly associated with the Tea Party movement, particularly as she supported key, fiscally conservative GOP insurgents in the last election cycle.  But the Tea Party has remained spontaneous and grassroots…and remains essentially leaderless.

January 5:

“In addition to Speaker Pelosi relinquishing her gavel and becoming simply Congresswoman Pelosi again, 37 Congressional candidates and 6 Senatorial candidates endorsed by Governor Palin will be sworn in today. Joining these endorsees are 7 Governors, 2 Attorney Generals, and 1 Secretary of State endorsed by Governor Palin who have taken office or will soon take office at the state level.”

< http://www.freerepublic.com >

WHO IS AFRAID OF SARAH PALIN AND WHY?

Obama Benefits in Having Palin as His Foil

New York Times, January 19, 2011

“But as the new House majority begins its push this week to scale back the Obama agenda, it seems that the president now has, in Ms. Palin, something he badly needed after a punishing election season: the ideal political foil.”

….

“Next year, when Republicans settle on a presidential candidate, Mr. Obama will have an adversary chosen for him. But for now, he could clearly do worse than to have Ms. Palin overshadow the party’s more predictable leaders in Congress. With every controversial tweet or video, Ms. Palin makes Mr. Obama, who has often struggled to project the regality of the office, seem more like the post-partisan grownup he always intended to be.”

LINK

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/19/us/politics/19bai.html?_r=1&ref=sarahpalin

New York times, January 18, 2011

Exceptionalism, Faith and Freedom: Palin’s America

Professor Stanley Fish reviewed a Sarah Palin book in the New York Times on-line, America by Heart: Reflections on Faith, Family and Flag.

LINK http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/category/stanley-fish/

Before I approach the Stanley Fish review or the “Palin helps Obama” piece, please indulge an excursion into the history of political smear tactics.

FEAR & LOATHING ON THE LEFT

Start with the casual assumptions we tend to make about intelligence affect politics.  In the prevailing culture, the expectation of intelligence in the people we encounter, or the lack thereof, tends to color our experience, even trump it.  For several decades, US political liberals have managed to keep alive the notion that the entire liberal agenda is the product of “learning” and “enlightenment” to the exclusion of every other political point of view, especially conservatism.  In this mindset, conservatives are the retrograde products of a poor education.

The left got away with this silliness until the arrival of the “neo-cons”.  The neo-conservatives were former leftist intellectuals who had rejected communism, then turned against their former liberal colleagues who were communist apologists and defenders of authoritarian socialism.  Some, like Senator Joe Lieberman, remained liberal on most issues, but others became full-on free market conservatives. When the cold war ended, there was a vacuum in the Democratic Party, the spot formerly occupied by stalwart Churchillians like Harry Truman and Senator Henry Scoop Jackson.  As the post-Vietnam pacifist, anti-military left tightened its grip on the party machinery, that vacuum was filled by the cadre of disillusioned leftists who became the neo-cons.  The neo-cons gravitated to the GOP, as was the only port in a storm.

The effect on the left was galvanizing.  How dare the conservatives produce smart people! Suddenly there was a growing crop of conservative intellectuals!

It was only a matter of time until these men and women were savagely attacked. The opening presented itself when neo-cons prominently supported the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  Flash forward to the end game in those wars, following success in Iraq and a liberal president committed to finish Afghanistan by defeating the Taliban.  Even now, as the military conflicts that the neo-cons (and many liberals) supported have faded away as a “wedge issue, “neo-con” is still used by the left as an epithet in liberal circles.  Why the energy and venom?  The intelligentsia is supposed to be a liberal, leftwing club.  People intelligent enough to belong to the club but reject the left orthodoxy are heretics.  When persuasive, heretics are dangerous.

The arch left still controls the Democratic Party – and I write this with special inside knowledge as a Blue Dog democrat.   The same mindset retains a firm grip on certain major media outlets.

Here’s how it is now: Whenever a new charismatic conservative leader emerges on the scene, efforts are made by the governing leftwing apparatchiks to nip the newbie (and all such blooming conservatives) in the bud as soon as the first clear opportunity for an assault presents itself.  Their attack playbook calls for a coordinated response, starting with revelations and whispers from the commentariat, then (by using the mirror effect) a chorus of negative chatter arises as if spontaneously.  At all times the game is to exploit all the negative conservative stereotypes, as in –conservatives are against social progress; they are against poor people; all the “nice” conservatives are stupid; and all the smart ones are mean spirited and dangerous.

The first slip of the tongue that plays into a negative stereotype is used to define the blooming conservative leader, hopefully forever.  Whenever the target fights back, we hear the accusations of incivility…or worse.  The other scandals tend to emerge later on in the game, typically when the target is in a tight election so the story can break too late for damage control.  {Bush W’s DUI is a classic example.}

Note: I do not suggest here that only one side uses these or similar tactics.  But the charge of stupidity (always muted and condescending), and of meanness (or callousness) remain unique to the left.  The right is usually content to use labels like “liberal” or (God forbid) socialist.

Just one thing is more frightening to the leftwing intelligentsia than a smart, charismatic conservative. It is a populist one.  This is because, by definition in the left-saturated mind, populists are supposed be for the downtrodden victims, hence the whole category belongs to the left as its intellectual property.

Governor Sarah Palin is a particularly galling threat to the left because she is a populist.  God forbid she should turn out to be intelligent, too.

PALIN AS POLITICAL THEOLOGIAN

Now back to the book review: The fact that the Times ran a review of a Palin book, even in one of its on-line blogs, is unremarkable.  But this is a favorable review, affirming her intelligence and perspective.  The surprise is that such a review ran in the New York Times at all.

America by Heart: Reflections on Faith, Family and Flag

‘“… we are not angels’, she says , [so] we require a system of government that acknowledges ‘the inevitable conflicts’ produced by our ‘imperfect passions’ and yet provides mechanisms — free speech, vigorous debate — that allow us to settle those conflicts without resorting to ‘dueling pistols.’ That, she declares, is the system the Founders designed, and it is part of ‘why America is exceptional,’ an assertion she makes twice.

“The combination of ‘imperfect passions’ and “unabashed patriotism is writ large in Palin’s recent book.” [Her thesis appears] “…first in the lengthy discussion of Capra’s Jefferson Smith [Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”] and then, at the end of the same chapter, in an equally lengthy discussion of Martin Luther King. These two men (one fictional, one real) are brought together when Palin says that King’s dream of an America that lived out ‘the true meaning of its creed’ would be, if it were realized, ‘the fulfillment of America’s exceptional destiny.’ A belief in that destiny and that exceptionalism is, she concludes, ‘a belief Senator Jefferson Smith would have agreed with.’

“In each of these [Capra] films the forces of statism, corporatism and mercantilism are routed by the spontaneous uprising of ordinary men who defeat the sophisticated machinations of their opponents by declaring, living and fighting for a simple basic creed of individualism, self-help, independence and freedom.

“Does that sound familiar? It should. It describes what we have come to know as the Tea Party, which famously has no leaders, no organization, no official platform, no funds from the public trough. Although she only mentions the Tea Party briefly in her book, Palin is busily elaborating its principles.”

[LINK: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/17/exceptionalism-faith-and-freedom-palins-america/?ref=opinion

PALIN AS POTUS?

SHIFTING OPINION

Gallup

April 4, 2010

“PRINCETON, NJ — Tea Party supporters skew right politically; but demographically, they are generally representative of the public at large. That’s the finding of a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted March 26-28, in which 28% of U.S. adults call themselves supporters of the Tea Party movement.

Gallup

April 8, 2010

“PRINCETON, NJ — Americans’ favorable rating of the Democratic Party dropped to 41% in a late March USA Today/Gallup poll, the lowest point in the 18-year history of this measure. Favorable impressions of the Republican Party are now at 42%, thus closing the gap between the two parties’ images that has prevailed for the past four years

Rasmussen:

January 17, 2011

“New Rasmussen Reports telephone polling finds that 46% of Likely U.S. Voters nationwide say they would vote for their district’s Republican congressional candidate, while 38% would choose the Democrat instead. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that “conservative” is still the most favored description. Forty-two percent (42%) of Likely U.S. Voters say they view it as a positive if a candidate is described as politically conservative. Twenty-one percent (21%) say it’s a negative description, and 36% rate it somewhere in between the two.  Conservative, in fact, is the only political label other than “moderate” that is a net plus for a candidate. Calling someone a Tea Party candidate is seen positively by 31%.”

UNCERTAIN READINESS

Palin, as a candidate running against an incumbent Obama, does yet not poll well because of her negatives.  That will change over time.  But the nervousness of GOP insiders is justified.  Hypothetically, if Governor Palin were to run for POTUS any time soon, she would surely be defeated.  When taking on an incumbent president, every negative hurts the challenger.  Can she outgrow the baggage?  I don’t pretend to know.

Consider the more pertinent question: Is she ready?

Whether we should consider Governor Palin a serious and viable candidate for POTUS, ready to take on a sitting president in 2012, is premature.

The threshold question is whether she is ready to govern.  That question will be answered over the coming months when it becomes clear whether she intends to assemble both a campaign team and (much more importantly) a team of policy experts and advisors, including several credible, cabinet-ready loyalists.

Palin has a number of political players spooked.  In fact, we are hearing a convergence of narratives, both from within the Obama camp and from some in the pre-Tea Party GOP establishment: The president needs Palin as a foil in order to get reelected. Forgive me if I remain a bit skeptical.

Immediately before the catastrophic credit meltdown that sank the McCain campaign, the performance of Governor Palin had put the GOP ticket on an up course (several polls picked up on that trend-line at the time), and would probably have defeated the Obama.

We will never know, or course.

But if Mr. Obama faces the voters in 2012 with a jobless, anemic recovery still an open question, a Palin-led ticket could win.  Both the members of the Obama camp and the older GOP establishment are nervous for the same reason.  Both are worried that Governor Palin will win.

A FORCE OF NATURE

In the meantime, no one on the right or left should underestimate the former Alaska governor.  As one well-read conservative lawyer-friend recently put it to me, “She could be America’s Margaret Thatcher.”

Leave the merits of the day aside for a moment, and suspend judgment about the former Alaska governor’s suitability for leader of the free world.

Sarah Palin is the most significant political player to emerge from comparative obscurity in a generation. She, and her world view, will be more consequential the overwhelming majority of current office holders realize, win or lose, run or not run.

Stay tuned.

JBG

DEFENDING CUDDLES (The Arizona Rampage, Part 3)

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…..connecting the dots….

→The Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com

All contents, unless otherwise indicated are

Copyright © 2011 by Jay B. Gaskill

LINK TO THIS ARTICLE OR FORWARD IT TO OTHER READERS, AS YOU WISH.

Also feel free to PRINT IT FOR YOUR PERSONAL USE….

Otherwise,

The author’s permission to publish all or part of this article is needed.

License to print copies for use in group discussions is usually given on request.

For all permissions, comments or questions, please contact Jay B. Gaskill, attorney at law, via e mail at law@jaygaskill.com

This follows two short pieces on the Arizona shooting rampage, both posed at my Dot2Dot Blog (http://www.jaygaskill.com/dot2dot/) and separately viewable at , http://jaygaskill.com/Tucson11.htm > and < http://jaygaskill.com/JaredTheKiller.htm >.

HTM Version (no graphics) http://jaygaskill.com/DefendingCuddles.html

PDF Version (w/graphics) http://jaygaskill.com/DefendingCuddles.pdf

DEFENDING “CUDDLES”

Has anyone not seen the grinning visage of the now-defendant Arizona shooter, Jared L. Loughner, the most widely circulated mug shot of the week, courtesy of the Tucson authorities and the AP?

It immediately reminded me of a vintage Gary Larson cartoon.  I can still bring up that droll image, one posted on my office wall: a courtroom full of cats, including the judge, the prosecutor, the defense attorney, the jury, all serious, furry felines, then the single dog in the dock, his tongue lolling, looking slightly idiotic.  The cat defense attorney is making what must have seemed at the time as a telling argument:  “Cat killer?  Is this the face of a cat killer?”

But the faces that most haunt me are those of a smiling nine year old girl named Green, and her dignified, deeply grieving parents.

Back in the day, when we took in a particularly ugly homicide case, reeking of “mental disorder” elements, my favorite colleague, saturated as was I with the gallows humor common to public defenders, cops and EMT’s, would say: “Great, another homicidal maniac defense.”

Ms. Clarke, you don’t want me on your jury.

The juridical law is founded on the moral law, but moral categories, like “evil” are banished from the discussion because they are too inflammatory.  Lady Justice is depicted with a blindfold, a metaphoric screen through which only carefully vetted facts and the rules that govern their application are allowed to filter.

The scale of the damage inflicted in this case, a 911 writ small, is just enough to sharply engage the passions of any reasonable jury, but not so immense as to dull them.

But justice will prevail because the facts and the law are bright line clear and the forces assembled to guide this case to its conclusion are intelligent enough to avoid the pandering and histrionics that could jeopardize a conviction.

The moral category, Evil (not in vogue), and the quasi medical category, crazy SOB (it’s the current fad, but must be restated in terms of the DSM IV), often overlap, as here.

I’ve come to terms with Evil as an omnipresent moral pathogen that is carried by malevolent ideation, dark anti-life images, with the capacity to “infect” (metaphor here) susceptible personalities, particularly those who were formed with little or no moral character (think of character as a firewall, if you will) and who hunger for power and notoriety.

Hitler (as the unrecognized artist, Adolph Schicklgruber) was a high functioning version of this personality type.  On the face of it, the defendant in US vs Loughner is a low functioning version of the type, whose somewhat disordered cognition was sufficient to plan and carry out a “glorious” assassination, but actually prevented a much larger circle of damage.

The scope and identification of Evil is measured by purpose. As justice Holmes famously said, even a dog knows the difference between being kicked and stumbled over.

A purposeful attack on the very workings a free, life affirming, peaceful civilization is evil.  The topic is ancient and modern, simple and complex.  My own take is set out at some length in two articles article posted at < http://jaygaskill.com/explainingevil.htm > and < http://jaygaskill.com/evil2l.htm > .

When is authentic insanity a moral defense?  In two categories:

(a) The very rare circumstance when volition does not operate (crudely, when ‘the devil made me do it!”).

(b) When one’s reality is so warped by delusion and/or hallucination that acting within a traditional moral framework results in horrendously immoral results, as for example when an hallucinating mother kills her children thinking all the time that she is saving them.

In these two categories, evil actions can result without an evil purpose.  The problem in this case is that, again on the face of it, the very purpose was an evil one: A wanton attack on life, freedom and the very foundations of civilized life.

Mercy is, by its very character, an individuated matter.  While we should never close off the possibility of mercy, this case is a very unlikely place for it to descend.  In this case the matter of legal guilt and punishment are necessarily open questions

But this is also a teaching moment.  From my remote viewing platform, Mr. Loughner’s actions and mindset appear to have been thoroughly evil.  The demands of moral law and the necessity that civilization must defend itself from evil without compromise form the unstated subtext of this case.

JBG

Jay B Gaskill is a California lawyer who served as the Alameda County Public Defender before her left his “life of crime” to devote full time to writing.  His profile is posted at www.jaygaskill.com/Profile.pdf .

About Jared, The (accused) Killer

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Copyright © 2011 by Jay B. Gaskill

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Monday, January 10, 2011

About Jared, the Arizona Defendant

My practice is not to name a killer before he is charged.

As everyone with access to the news can tell you, the person referred to in my Black Saturday post as “the killer” has now been charged by federal authorities.  [Link to that post – http://jaygaskill.com/Tucson11.htm ]

Jared L. Loughner is being arraigned today for the Arizona shooting rampage on Saturday.

A note to my friends in the news business: The proper nomenclature is rarely used.  When the miscreant is at large we are told the person being sought is either a suspect or a person of interest depending on whether police intend an arrest (suspect) or just a conversation (poi).

Once the suspect has been taken into custody, he is either an arrestee or a detainee, depending on whether police have decided that he will be held to be charged (arrestee) or are still considering possible release (detainee).

Once charges are filed, we always have a defendant.  Lawyers enter the picture and the processes of court administered justice have been initiated.   Only an unsophisticated reporter persists in calling the defendant a suspect at this stage.  After a conviction by plea or trial, it is perfectly appropriate to start using the term convict.   Technically, any conviction can be set aside by a trial judge before sentencing or by a higher court on appeal after sentencing.  But the term convict is apt unless and until the conviction is set aside.

The most important aspect of the US vs. Loughner case will be suppressed for legal reasons.  No prosecutor wants to stray too far into the “Why did this man open fire on two public officials and a crowd of bystanders?” question, because: (a) the legal system is primarily concerned with the simpler question, whether the defendant transgressed the law with the required intent, not how he was raised or formed as a person; and (b) a criminal defendant’s character evidence is almost always excluded from evidence as too prejudicial, unless the defense has opened the door.

In Saturday’s post, I said that the nature and quality of these killings and attempted killings, under the obvious circumstances, meet my minimum definition for evil.

In a brief update, I added more information about the shooter (that a jury may not hear), to wit – that this 22 year old male has been reading Hilter and Marx, evidently with admiration.

As I put it, “Evil favors no political party.  Word is leaking out on the shooter’s “reading list”.  It included, reportedly with admiration, “The Communist Manifesto” by Karl Marx, Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf“”.

Evil can be misidentified as mental illness, but that is a category mistake. Various insults and conditions can compromise the moral immune system, allowing evil influences to take hold.  In a compromised mind, the last defense against the urges and influences of malevolent ideation, images and fantasy constructs, is moral character, the ultimate firewall.  Evil most often takes root in a susceptible mind via power lures. These are especially attractive to socially isolated young males whose thirst for approval and recognition is easily perverted in as lust for power. [1]

The facile chatter of the day that passes for political discourse is unable to accommodate the juxtaposition of Hitler and Marx, as if they represent polar opposites.  More discerning thinkers, notably the brilliant autodidact longshoreman, immigrant, Eric Hoffer and the Austrian economist Friedrich August Hayek, see them as malevolent twins.  To a power starved adolescent mind, the Manifesto and the Kampf represent paths to great power, written by great men who were unafraid to break a lot of eggs to make a human omelet.   The consistency of Great Purpose Ruthlessly Pursued swamps all the differences.

The trial will use the defendant’s “assassination papers”, and the defense will suggest mental illness.  But the real probe, the one that is important from the larger moral perspective, will be buried in the interests of ensuring a fair trial.

Here’s what to look for:

What was going on in young Loughner’s mind from age seven till twenty one?  What and who were the major influences?  What, if any, was his moral education?

Reportedly Jared was living at home throughout.  Clearly, as an adult, he is fully accountable for his misdeeds.  But his parents and the other adults charged with his care and education are accountable for his character formation.

These are hard questions to ask and, quite possibly harder answers for parents and others to face.  But I’ve spent long difficult years investigating the backgrounds of defendants facing the death penalty, and months on months in a courtroom facing a jury that would decide whether a client would be executed.

Kids do not ripen into killers overnight.

Evil is a narrow, but very real category.  I’ve written and lectured extensively on the topic. Among the articles, see – http://www.jaygaskill.com/explainingevil.htm .

Early in the computer age, we were reminded not to entirely trust these “smart” machines: “Garbage in, garbage out” was the watchword.  In the cyber age we should not trust the ambient culture, let alone the seething internet, to raise our young.  My own contact with the underworld suggests a corollary:  Garbage in, evil out.

JBG


[1] Progressive Christian theologians rarely discuss the temptations posed Jesus by Satan during the 40 days in the desert described in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  But those narratives contain an important lesson that transcends the Christian setting: Each offer was a power lure, one often repeated in modern form, “I know it’s distasteful but think of how much good you can do with all that power.”

WHY THE TUCSON ATTACK WAS AGAINST US AND ALL WE ARE

PRINT VERSION OF THIS PIECE — http://jaygaskill.com/Tucson11.htm

Updated, January 9.

Evil favors no political party.  Word is leaking out on the shooter’s “reading list”.  It included, reportedly with admiration, “The Communist Manifesto” by Karl Marx, Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf“.  

As Published On

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…..connecting the dots….

→The Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com

All contents, unless otherwise indicated are

Copyright © 2011 by Jay B. Gaskill

LINK TO THIS ARTICLE OR FORWARD IT TO OTHER READERS, AS YOU WISH.

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WHY THE TUCSON ATTACK WAS AGAINST US AND ALL WE ARE

Tucson, Arizona.  Black Saturday, January 08, 2011.

A 22 year old male opened fire at a gathering held in a Safeway lot by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, shooting her in the head (she may yet make it), but killing federal judge John Roll, a nine year old girl and three or four other victims.  Another dozen or so were wounded as well.

A nine mm Glock pistol (doubtless a semiautomatic) was reportedly recovered at the scene, and the suspected shooter is now in custody.

The killer’s putative “reasons” for this madness are unclear.  We know that Ms. Giffords is an attractive, well liked conservative democrat who is married to a former astronaut, and that Judge Roll was appointed by President Bush senior.  We know that both had taken flack over the immigration issue, because they allegedly “sided” with the plight of the illegals.  We know that Ms. Giffords is Jewish and that the judge was not expected to attend the event, but just dropped in.   If there was a specific target, it was likely Ms. Giffords.

We know that the shooter, when/if he is convicted (a different outcome is only remotely possible) will be eligible for and probably receive the death penalty.

It strains credulity that this was a purely random killing.  The circumstances point to the congresswoman, not the judge, as the primary target.  I note that the shooter could not have reasonably planned on getting away.

Given the issues afoot and the circumstances, the shooter was probably not aggrieved in the sense that a fired employee or an angry spouse would be.  Instead, the shooter was likely grieved in the sense that some unbalanced types are capable of getting worked up into a homicidal froth over mere issues.  But this seems even more.  This event looks and smells like a grand gesture killing by someone who intended to go down in a blaze of glory.

Not to put too fine of a point on it, this sort of thing clearly meets the minimum definition of evil, to wit: a purposeful, intelligently planned course of action that has as its very object the wanton elimination of human life, via an attack on intelligent discourse and the minimum conditions of a free civilization, and not just for some mundane personal gain.  Ironically, had this been a killing in the course of a bank robbery, say, it would be despicable and warrant the worst punishment, but would not necessarily be evil in the classic Burkean sense.

In my moral framework, this is an instance of actual evil because these malevolent objectives were wanted in themselves, not just as the necessary side effect of something as banal as a robbery.  My heart and prayers go out to the wounded and the affected families and friends.  From their point of view, this is a tragedy.  So are earthquakes and floods.  Where evil is involved, tragedy is a mile short of the mark.  This was a brazen attack on who we are, not a mere transgression of the moral law, but an attempt to negate it and twist it into something less.

Spare me those who will “try to understand” the killer’s motives, as if a twisted empathy could disguise evil. And spare me the attempt to medicalize the whole episode, as if evil were some psychological malady instead of a profoundly moral one.

JBG

A necessary caveat:  This is an opinion piece based on the available reports.  The court processes will unfold and the outcome, by definition, will be justice.  All else is just talk.  That said, while  could be wrong, about this sort of thing I rarely am.

New Year Hope 2011

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…..connecting the dots….

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Copyright © 2011 by Jay B. Gaskill

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There are pretty much only three varieties of hope, the ultimate hope of faith, the enthusiastic hope of the prematurely optimistic and the realistic hope of the prepared.

ENTER THE NEW YEAR & REALISTIC HOPE

A reflection from

A quiet neighborhood somewhere in Idaho

Jan 1, 2011.

I awoke today to a sunlit morning, snow almost painfully brilliant under a clear sky – the chill outside air hovering just above zero Fahrenheit. I stepped outside and took a breath of morning.  The day was headed towards a balmy 9 as the sunlight’s energy slowly penetrates the still.

My overwhelming impression was one of safety and security, inside a zone of shared common sense and optimism, grounded in common preparation.  I knew that in this spot there are well-prepared, realistic neighbors, who form a community-in-fact that can ultimately be counted on to do the right thing when the right thing is demanded of them.

They and I (part time in my case) live in a state that is thinly populated to be sure, but also consistently occupies the top tier of the fastest growing populations in the USA.  By far it is the most stable of that group.  Yes, even here, the state government is struggling under the same fiscal constraints that have hobbled 49 others.  Unlike California, however, this state has taken seriously the notion that a government should live within its means.  During earlier budget cycles, when the no-longer-golden state was simply carrying forward an insurmountable debt load to the next fiscal year, this state was running a surplus, putting money aside in a rainy day fund.

As the recession holds back income, real budget cutting is taking place, in households and statehouse alike, sharply reducing the public payroll.  Unlike CA, these cuts are real; they actually generate a real balanced budget.

And business startups and people continue to trickle in.  When the actual recovery cuts in, it will be stronger in places like this one where on a sunlit morning at a balmy 9 degrees above zero people are secure inside a zone of shared common sense and optimism, grounded in common preparation.

Unlike Lake Wobegone, not everyone here is above average, bus everyone is accountable, and therein is the difference on which realistic hope is founded.

JBG