Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Daily life’ Category

A day’s report

leave a comment »

Much productive running about on an overcast (but not raining) day. No walk, but 4000 steps just doing things.

Hearing aids: Lewis at Oak Bay Hearing Clinic pumped up the volume on my hearing aids. (The Wife and I had noticed my increasing use of “Say again.”) This meant: a hearing test, a programming change to the hearing aids regarding the relative amplification of different frequencies, and more powerful (though still tiny) speakers to fit into my ears. The difference is already noticeable, and it was a bargain at CAD$240 ($95 hearing test, $100 for the new speakers ($50/ear), and $45 for the reprogramming). Just to give you an idea of what you will someday face.

Then shopping: Farm & Field for a chuck roast (to be cut into tiny pieces for chili), a pork belly round to roast (on parchment paper: I learned my lesson), and three pieces braised pork belly (to be heated on parchment paper).

Then I got some pitted Greek brine-cured olives for the Umbrian Chicken Alla Cacciatora I plan to make on Sunday (recipe below). That was a Whole Foods stop, and at my regular supermarket I picked up the rest of the chilli ingredients along with two 8-oz steelhead fillets for tonight. I did get some fuyu persimmons (zero points).

So altogether a good day.

Umbrian-Style Chicken Alla Cacciatora

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
3 lbs (approx) boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunks

1 onion, cut in half vertically and sliced

6 to 8 cloves garlic, very finely minced
1 1/2 tablespoon capers
1/2 cup brine-cured olives, black and green, with pits or pitted
2 sprigs rosemary
1 handful sage leaves, chopped
Salt and black pepper

1 cup dry white wine

Zest and juice of 1-2 lemons
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

One family pack of boneless, skinless chicken thighs is about 3 lbs, which is what I use. Or use 5 bone-in, skin-on thighs. And now I’m using boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into chunks.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in my large sauté pan. Add chicken pieces and sear over medium heat until golden on all sides, about 15 minutes.

Turn heat to low, add remaining 1 teaspoon oil, and add onions. Cook, stirring frequently until onions caramelize, about 15 minutes. Stuff will stick to the bottom, but will be deglazed later with the wine.

Add minced garlic, capers, olives, rosemary sprigs, and chopped sage leaves. Season with salt and black pepper.

After a couple of minutes, when everything smells fragrant, add wine. Scrape bottom of pan to incorporate all the browned bits.

Cover and simmer very slowly until the chicken is tender and cooked through (165 degrees), about 15 minutes. Add water if the sauce gets too dry while simmering.

When ready to serve, reheat if necessary, then add lemon juice and zest and balsamic vinegar. Taste and add more lemon if desired. Remove the rosemary sprig and serve. Would be wonderful over rice if I ate starch.

Recipe originator: Yes, do cook the chicken with the onions: the chicken absorbs the flavor of the aromatics. Also, do use olive with pits because of the woody flavor the pits add.

The original can be found on the NY Times Cooking site if you pay enough.


Written by LeisureGuy

15 November 2018 at 7:05 pm

Suicide in America is an epidemic, but read: The Best Way To Save People From Suicide

leave a comment »

Jason Cherkis writes at Huffington Post:

It was still dark outside when Amanda woke up to the sound of her alarm, got out of bed and decided to kill herself. She wasn’t going to do it then, not at 5:30 in the morning on a Friday. She told herself she would do it sometime after work.

Amanda showered. She put on khakis and a sweater. She fed Abby, her little house cat. Before walking out the door, she sent her therapist an email. “Not a good night last night, had a disturbing dream,” she wrote. “Got to try and get through the day, hope I can shift my mind enough to focus. Only plan tonight is to come home and take a nap.”

Amanda was a 29-year-old nurse, pale and thin—a quiet rule-follower. She had thought about taking a sick day, but she didn’t want to upset her co-workers or draw attention to herself. As usual, she arrived at the office earlier than just about everyone else, needing the extra time to get comfortable. She had taken a pay cut to join this clinic outside Seattle, in part because she wanted to treat low-income mothers and pregnant women. Some of her patients were in recovery, others were homeless, several had fled physically abusive men. She was inspired by their resilience and felt only slightly jealous of the ones who had found antidepressants that worked. That day, September 28, 2007, was her first shift seeing patients without a supervisor watching over her.

Amanda’s schedule was relatively light: three, maybe four patients. She measured their blood pressure, their weight. She ran through her mandated checklist of questions. Have you relapsed since your last visit? Can you afford your newborn’s car seat? Do you have a history of mental health problems? She hated those questions. There was no way she would answer them herself. Too invasive, too personal. In an email she’d sent her therapist a month earlier, she confessed that she would occasionally put on a “mask of normalcy.” Sure, patients were always commenting on how upbeat she was, but “the part they didn’t see,” she wrote, “was me turning around, me leaving the room, me getting in my car at the end of the day, taking a deep breath and me crying all the way home. I have always done what is needed to be done and when I can stop pretending I let it out.”

Her first thoughts of suicide had come shortly after her 14th birthday. Her parents were going through an ugly divorce just as her social anxiety and her perfectionism at school kicked in hard. At 20, she tried to kill herself for the first time. For about the next decade, Amanda didn’t make a few attempts. She made dozens. Most times, she would take a bunch of pills just before bedtime. That way, her roommates would think she was sleeping. In the mornings, though, she would wake up drained and spaced out, despairing that she could fail even at this. Then she would resolve not to speak of it to anyone. To her, suicide attempts weren’t cries for help but secrets to be zealously guarded.

“What in the world is it going to take for me to feel better?” Amanda asked in an exasperated diary entry from 2004. Therapy wasn’t much help—too often, her pain was met with baffling ignorance or worse. A counselor at her church suggested that her depression would go away if she prayed more. Once, a therapist refused to talk during their session unless she opened up; she never went back after that. The college where she studied nursing forced her to take a leave of absence over her depression and anxiety. The day she got the news, she made another suicide attempt.

Ursula Whiteside, Amanda’s new therapist, was different. She was just 29 years old, a graduate student working under supervision at a University of Washington lab. Amanda was one of her first clients. But Whiteside was preternaturally sensitive. She could tell how just sitting in the waiting room stoked Amanda’s social anxiety. And she made it clear that she would go to creative lengths to get Amanda talking. During one session, Whiteside stood on her head. In another, she took Amanda into a children’s playroom, thinking the absurd change of scenery would shake something loose. The rare moments when Amanda responded with a dry joke were gold.

Still, there were sessions that ended in frustration, so they agreed to email between appointments. Amanda wrote to Ursula whenever the mood hit her, late at night mostly. The emails could be short, no more than a few paragraphs, but here, more than anywhere else, she was matter-of-fact about her suicidal thinking. “I wanted to tell you what went on this weekend and I’m pretty sure I will not be able to tell you in person,” she wrote on August 26. “I survived the weekend, which I guess was the goal. … I panicked Fri. night and I took 2 extra pills. I usually just take 1, Friday night, I took 3. It was stupid, I just wanted to sleep, it was stupid because it wouldn’t do anything. … I also ended up going over to my friends house last night. She kept me safe last night, even though she doesn’t know it.”

Whiteside’s replies often teemed with exclamation points and underlined words. She knew it was important to remain upbeat. But a month later, when she received the email Amanda sent that Friday morning before work, she wrote back quickly and with little of her typical flair. They’d had a session the day before, and Amanda seemed to be hiding more than usual. Whiteside felt it was necessary to jolt her into being more forthcoming.

“If you are planning on killing yourself this evening or this weekend, I need to know,” Whiteside wrote just before 7 a.m.

Then she waited. 10 a.m. Noon. No reply. By 1:30 p.m., Whiteside called her supervisor to discuss strategy. If Whiteside’s instincts were correct, and she asked the police to do a welfare check, she could save Amanda’s life. If she was wrong, she could destroy the trust they had built over their months together, and Amanda might not return for another session. Whiteside started typing up notes. “I’m glad that she is telling me something,” she wrote. “But something is getting in the way of her being completely forthright. … As good as I am, I can not magically help someone feel better. … So terrifying that she is going to go all the way to the bottom.”

Amanda left work at 4:30 p.m. and stopped at a local pharmacy to refill a prescription. She wanted to make sure she had enough antidepressants to successfully overdose. She then went home and gathered up other sleeping meds so that she could mix them together with the new pills. She never replied to Whiteside. She didn’t write a suicide note. After dark, she put on her pajamas and brushed her teeth. She took a deep breath, methodically swallowed one pill after another, dozens and dozens of them, laid down on her bed and drifted off to sleep.

Meanwhile, Whiteside had a lot of work to do, but her mind kept returning to Amanda. She was so worried that she forgot that she had driven to the university that morning and took a bus home. She kept leaving voicemails and texts, telling Amanda that she cared about her, that she was confident the therapy could work. That night, she finally called the police. She knew the risks; she just didn’t care anymore.

But when the cops arrived, Amanda was nowhere to be found: The address Whiteside had was out of date. Helpfully, an old neighbor gave the police the number of one of Amanda’s friends. The friend, though, insisted on meeting the police in person, eating up valuable time. By the time she took them to Amanda’s studio apartment, it was late, maybe five or six hours after Amanda had ingested the pills. They found Amanda in bed, alive but clearly out of it. There were empty pill bottles nearby, cat toys underfoot. Her friend shook her awake. In a sleepy whisper, Amanda confirmed what she had done.

Several hours later, Amanda came to in the emergency room. She had an IV drip in her arm. An oxygen mask covered her face. Medical personnel monitored her extremely low blood pressure and x-rayed her chest. She could hardly speak, but the staff got enough information to describe her in their medical records as “a 29-year-old previously healthy, except for her psychiatric history.”

In time, Amanda was transferred to another part of the hospital, where a “sitter” was assigned to observe her in case she tried to harm herself. During a psychological assessment, she frequently dozed off. She couldn’t believe she was here again. She didn’t call any friends or family members. Her state of mind was exactly the same as it was when she started downing the pills. Amanda still wanted to die.

Over the last two decades, suicide has slowly and then very suddenly announced itself as a full-blown national emergency. Its victims accompany factory closings and the cutting of government assistance. They haunt post-9/11 military bases and hollow the promise of Silicon Valley high schools. Just about everywhere, psychiatric units and crisis hotlines are maxed out. According to the most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are now more than twice as many suicides in the U.S. (45,000) as homicides; they are the 10th leading cause of death. You have to go all the way back to the dawn of the Great Depression to find a similar increase in the suicide rate. Meanwhile, in many other industrialized Western countries, suicides have been flat or steadily decreasing.

What makes these numbers so scary is that they can’t be explained away by any sort of demographic logic. Black women, white men, teenagers, 60-somethings, Hispanics, Native Americans, the rich, the poor—they are all struggling. Suicide rates have spiked in every state but one (Nevada) since 1999. Kate Spade’s and Anthony Bourdain’s deaths were shocking to everybody but the epidemiologists who track the data.

And these are just the reported cases. None of the numbers above account for the thousands of drug overdose deaths that are just suicides by another name. If you widen the lens a bit to include those contemplating suicide, the problem starts to take on the contours of an epidemic. In 2014, the federal government estimated that 9.4 million American adults had seriously considered the idea.

There’s an inherent lack of closure to suicide. Even when people write notes, they can reveal so little. Suicides often leave loved ones, acquaintances and co-workers to question themselves for the rest of their lives. And in their own grief, they, too, can entertain dangerous thoughts. “With suicide you have that added trauma to it,” said Julie Cerel, the president of the American Association of Suicidology. “The ‘why’ question of trying to search for meaning when there’s no meaning available—If I only had a note. If I only talked to the last person that they talked to. The ‘onlys’ can be torturous.’” Last year, Cerel published a study examining the consequences of suicide and found that each one could affect as many as 135 other people.

The fundamental mystery of suicide has long made it an object of fear and contempt within the medical establishment. Since the 1950s, public health officials have tried hotlines, individual therapy, group therapy, shock therapy and forced hospitalizations. Doctors have taken away people’s shoelaces and belts and checked in on attempt survivors every 15 minutes to make sure they are still safe. They have coerced patients into signing contracts swearing that they would not kill themselves. They have piled on psychiatric medications with ever-more invasive side effects, only to watch the number of suicides continue to climb.

Even now, most mental health professionals have no idea what to do when a suicidal person walks through their door. They’re untrained, they’re under-resourced and, not surprisingly, their responses can be remarkably callous. In an emergency room, an attempt survivor might be cuffed to a bed and made to wait hours to be officially admitted, sometimes days. Finding help beyond the ER can be harder yet.

“You take someone who is not doing well, shutting down, and throw them in a system that requires them to have the highest problem-solving abilities and emotional regulation,” said Jeff Sung, a psychiatrist colleague of Whiteside’s who works with high-risk clients and trains others to do so. According to federal data, the majority of those in need of mental health services do not receive it.

When confronted with the coldness of her colleagues, Whiteside grows exasperated. Because while the dead are invisible to most, she knows them. She gets how suicidal thoughts have their own seductive logic, how there is comfort in the notion that there is a surefire way to end one’s pain. She sees why people might turn to these thoughts when they hit a crisis, even a minor one like missing a bus to work or accidently bending the corner of a favorite book. That’s why suicidal urges are so much more dangerous than depression—people can view death as an answer to a problem. And she knows that many patients of hers will always feel vulnerable to these thoughts. She has described her job as an endless war.

Whiteside was born in Colville, Washington, 40 years ago, the first child of parents drawn to adventurous work wherever they could find it: building an oil pipeline in Alaska, raising cattle and conducting child health screenings in rural Washington, driving trucks through the Midwest. By the time she attended junior high, in Minnesota, Whiteside had enrolled in six different schools in three different states. But instead of turning her bitter or shy, all the moving seemed to sharpen her empathic powers. She became one of those canny little people who could intuit when those around her were in pain.

And she could be impulsive in her efforts to help. When she was in eighth grade, one of her best friends called her frantic and in tears. The friend didn’t go into detail, but said that she needed to escape her house immediately. So Whiteside planned a rescue. Shortly after midnight, Whiteside snuck out of a window in her family’s basement apartment and stole her mother’s sedan. She didn’t think about the fact that she couldn’t drive legally or that her friend’s house was 8 miles away or that the roads were icy and covered in snow. She didn’t care that she weighed only 80 pounds and could barely see over the steering wheel. She made it past the McDonald’s, down the hill, to the one-lane country road where her friend lived before crashing the car into a ditch in front of the house.

The older Whiteside got, the clearer it became that she was better at looking after others than herself. In high school, she struggled with her body image along with depression and anxiety. Like her future clients, she found it excruciatingly difficult to talk about what she was experiencing. The idea of asking for help was “the scariest thing I could imagine,” she said. During one point in college, she sent her mother, who had lost her own brother to suicide, a lengthy letter detailing her ups and downs. “I’m writing you this letter because I often have a hard time saying out loud what I mean,” she confessed. “I am just chicken.”

She wanted so badly to understand the mechanics of despair, including her own. “Everything I do has to be extreme,” she wrote in her diary. “I go through phases where I absolutely love myself—I go through others where all I can think about is knives and bridges.” At the University of Minnesota-Duluth, she read mental health textbooks and academic journals in her spare time. She was drawn to the field as a practical way of untangling life’s most intractable problems. “I took my first psychology class and I was like, ‘Oh my God, you can actually change things,’” she said. “It’s not magic.”

Before her junior year, Whiteside transferred to the University of Washington so she could learn from Marsha Linehan, a legend in the field of suicide research. Linehan had pioneered a powerful form of treatment called dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT, which trains patients how to reroute their suicidal impulses. It can be grueling, emotionally exhausting work that requires people to spend several hours a week in individual and group therapy, and therapists to do check-in calls as needed throughout the week. Linehan had a principle for all of her students: Clients came first, your own life came second.

It couldn’t have suited Whiteside better. “I’ve found some semblance of passion,” she wrote in her diary at the time. “I have to think of myself and I have to think of my soul and I have to remember those in most need, those experiencing suffering beyond my imagination.” In a letter of recommendation, Linehan wrote that Whiteside had “become unflappable.”

And then Whiteside sprinted nose-first into the wall of the modern-day behavioral health care system. She took a clinical internship in the psychiatric department of Harborview Medical Center in downtown Seattle, an under-resourced, grim institution. The main goal, she kept hearing, was triage. She was there to stabilize suicidal patients, nothing more, because no one had the time to do more.

Whiteside was tasked with probing patients for their treatment history and state of mind. There was the man who killed his dog and shot himself in the stomach. The immigrant who set himself on fire. The college student who had been found walking in the middle of a street clutching a teddy bear. Each one, she felt, was desperate for any form of help or kindness.

“I was absolutely insane, completely unconcerned with life,” one former patient from that era said. “They had no idea what to do with me. But Ursula was looking at me in a way where she was actually waiting for me to respond. … It wasn’t, ‘What are your symptoms? What medications are you on?’ It was, ‘Tell me a little bit about your story.’” Whiteside knew that people who leave the hospital after a suicide attempt are at a greater risk of harming themselves again within 90 days. And yet the doctors at Harborview were only providing referrals for clinics most patients would never visit or putting patients on waiting lists for therapists who might not be right for them. “These patients were basically at this critical juncture,” Whiteside said, “and we were fucking blowing it.”

After her patients left the hospital, she couldn’t stop thinking about them. So she began tracking them down, calling to see if they needed help or just to let them know they were on her mind. She handed out her phone number to patients before they left the hospital. On the back, she’d also leave a personal note. Anything to keep them tethered to the world. For six months, she called a woman who had made an attempt after a breakup. The woman took Whiteside’s calls for a while, until she didn’t. Whiteside still doesn’t know what happened to her. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 November 2018 at 2:07 pm

Facebook Betrayed America

leave a comment »

Alex Shephard writes in the New Republic:

Seven months ago, Mark Zuckerberg sat before Congress and said he was sorry about the fake news and the data breaches—and that it wasn’t really Facebook’s fault. The company’s founder and CEO had been hauled before Congress to answer for what became known as the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which a political consulting firm harvested Facebook data to sow electoral discord to help elect Donald Trump. Zuckerberg, appearing contrite before members of the House and Senate, insisted that Facebook’s flaws stemmed from the company’s commitment to free discourse and improving the world. “Facebook is an idealistic and optimistic company,” he said. “For most of our existence, we focused on all the good that connecting people can bring. … But it’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well.”

But a New York Times report published on Wednesday tells a different story. While Zuckerberg was sitting doe-eyed before Congress, insisting that Facebook only wants to connect people, his company was in fact imitating some of the worst behavior on Facebook to counter the barrage of negative stories the company was facing.

Zuckerberg may have insisted that all of the criticism of Facebook was a byproduct of the company’s core mission, but a crisis PR firm contracted by Facebook linked the site’s critics to George Soros, the liberal Jewish billionaire who is often at the center of right-wing attacks and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. At the same time, top executives, notably Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, were discouraging the company from investigating Russian activity on the site.

This response exposes the hypocrisy at the center of the company: While Zuckerberg was promising to return to the company’s utopian vision of bringing humanity closer together, it was doing everything it could to sow division, all in order to steer clear of negative coverage and eventual regulation.

Facebook has been flooded with negative stories since 2016. First, there was its role in the presidential election, when Russian agents used the platformto spread narratives designed to increase support for Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton. Over the next two years, the ease with which Facebook could be gamed to spread false and divisive stories was demonstrated again and again. The social network became complicit in at least one genocide, in Myanmar, and has been shown again and again to benefit bad actors and dictators—and to just make people unhappy in general. At the same time, the company’s efforts to curb the flow of fake and biased news have been met with furious criticism from the right.

Speaking to Congress, Zuckerberg repeatedly returned to the narrative that Facebook is a net good for humanity. It brings people together and helps them share their stories, he argued. It plays a central role in improving quality of life on an unprecedented, global scale. “My top priority has always been our social mission of connecting people, building community and bringing the world closer together. Advertisers and developers will never take priority over that as long as I’m running Facebook,” he said, dismissing his company’s main source of revenue—targeted advertising—as a negative externality.

While Zuckerberg was traveling the country, posing with cows, apologizing for Facebook’s missteps, and pushing the idea that the platform existed to pull people together rather than pull them apart, Facebook executives were engaged in a furious strategy to protect it:

While Mr. Zuckerberg conducted a public apology tour in the last year, Ms. Sandberg has overseen an aggressive lobbying campaign to combat Facebook’s critics, shift public anger toward rival companies and ward off damaging regulation. Facebook employed a Republican opposition-research firm to discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to the liberal financier George Soros. It also tapped its business relationships, persuading a Jewish civil rights group to cast some criticism of the company as anti-Semitic.

The Times piece reveals Facebook executives and lobbyists’ campaign of deflection. They pushed the intelligence community not to challenge the company’s response to Russian interference and worked media organizations to push negative stories about the privacy failings of their competitors, such as Google and Apple. Executives berated employees for investigating Russian interference, with Sandberg telling them it “exposed the company legally.” Other executives warned that the extent of Russian interference would be bad for the company politically, because it would reinforce narratives about the 2016 election, while potentially alienating users who had been deceived by fake news. Zuckerberg and Sandberg “ignored warning signs” of data misuse and “then sought to conceal them from view” once they were revealed, according to the Times.

Those who pushed the company to take action were warned that it would only result in political backlash from the right, with former Bush administration deputy chief of staff Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president of global public policy, telling employees that “if Facebook implicated Russia further… Republicans would accuse the company of siding with Democrats.” Any action, moreover, could alienate conservative users of the site. According to the Times, Kaplan said that “if Facebook pulled down the Russians’ fake pages, regular Facebook users might also react with outrage at having been deceived: His own mother-in-law, Mr. Kaplan said, had followed a Facebook page created by Russian trolls.”

Kaplan has a point, to an extent. Republicans made a fuss after Facebook (and Twitter) made minor changes aimed at curbing misinformation. Republicans, including Trump, have suggested that conservatives are being “shadow-banned” from social media platforms, while others have suggested tech companies are working to suppress conservative viewpoints. There is no evidence that they are, but the narrative has taken hold. That doesn’t excuse Facebook’s actions. But it was out of fear of conservative backlash that Facebook avoided taking meaningful action to make its platform more secure and less toxic.

The Times investigation is a damning portrait of a company in crisis and puts Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress in a harsher light. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 November 2018 at 1:35 pm

When It Comes to Rape, Just Because a Case Is Cleared Doesn’t Mean It’s Solved

leave a comment »

Whenever performance is measured, some will work to change the measure without changing performance. I call this “bending the needle” on the analogy of a gauge needle moving into the red zone, signifying a problem, with some thinking that bending the needle so that it points again to the green zone will solve the problem (magical thinking) or it will at least get management off their backs.

Bernice Yeung, ProPublica, Mark Greenblatt and Mark Fahey, Newsy, and Emily Harris, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting report in ProPublica:

Andy Leisher didn’t like what he was seeing on the security cameras from his post at the front desk of the Ramada Inn in Janesville, Wisconsin. On the closed-circuit television in front of him, Leisher watched as a man in his 30s kissed what appeared to be a teenager in the motel hot tub.

It put him on alert. “It just felt awkward,” Leisher said of the scene. “She just seemed really young, and he seemed really old. Or too old to be with her.”

When Leisher, a part-time pastor, confirmed that the girl was 16, he called the police. A few hours later, police arrested 31-year-old Bryan Kind, and he was charged with having sex with a child and possession of child pornography. He’s pleaded not guilty.

After collecting Kind’s cellphones, Janesville police also found naked photos of a girl from Maryland, and they sent the information to authorities there.

It wasn’t news to the Baltimore County Police Department. About a month before the May 2017 arrest, the department closed its investigation into Kind on allegations that he had sex with a 13-year-old girl.

It went on Baltimore County’s books as a success, another rape case cleared.

But Kind had walked free. He wasn’t charged with any crime. The Police Department hadn’t arrested him, even though it had a thick investigative file on him.

Across the country, dozens of law enforcement agencies are making it appear as though they have solved a significant share of their rape cases when they simply have closed them, according to an investigation by Newsy, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting and ProPublica based on data from more than 60 police agencies nationwide.

They are able to declare cases resolved through what’s known as exceptional clearance. Federal guidelines allow police to use the classification when they have enough evidence to make an arrest and know who and where the suspect is, but can’t make an arrest for reasons outside their control.

Although criminal justice experts say the designation is supposed to be used sparingly, our data analysis shows that many departments rely heavily on exceptional clearance, which can make it appear that they are better at solving rape cases than they actually are.

Because exceptional clearance data is not readily accessible to the public, we read through hundreds of police reports and sent more than 100 public records requests to the largest law enforcement agencies in the country. We analyzed data for more than 70,000 rape cases, providing an unprecedented look at how America’s police close them.

Nearly half of the law enforcement agencies that provided records cleared more rapes through exceptional means than by actually arresting a suspect in 2016, the data analysis shows.

The Baltimore County Police Department, for example, reported to the public that it cleared 70 percent of its rape cases in 2016, nearly twice the national average. In reality, the department made arrests about 30 percent of the time, according to its internal data. The rest were exceptionally cleared.

About a dozen departments that provided data had twice as many exceptional clearances as arrests in 2016. To the public, this effectively made it seem as though they had solved three times the number of rapes that they actually had.

For example, the Oakland Police Department in California cleared 60 percent of rapes reported in 2016, according to agency data. For every case they resolved through arrest, Oakland police cleared more than three by exceptional means, data provided by the department shows.

In Hillsborough County, Florida, home to Tampa, the Sheriff’s Office cleared 12 percent of rapes in 2016 by arrest. It cleared more than three times as many by exceptional means.

In Austin, Texas, where two out of three cleared rape investigations were closed by exceptional means in 2016, Police Chief Brian Manley said the high numbers are driven by the fact that so few victims decide to cooperate with police.

“It’s the unfortunate reality of sexual assault in this country,” he said.

Officials from Baltimore County, Oakland and Hillsborough County declined to comment about their exceptional clearance rates.

Cassia Spohn is the director of Arizona State University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and a co-author of seminal research on exceptional clearance. She said agencies’ overuse of exceptional clearance is “misleading at best and duplicitous at worst.”

“The public is concerned about the degree to which the police are able to arrest individuals who commit serious violent crimes,” Spohn said. “And if the vast majority of those clearances do not involve the arrest of a suspect, what does that say about that law enforcement agency?”

In November 2015, the stepfather of a 13-year-old girl from the suburbs of Baltimore went to the local Child Advocacy Center, run by the Police Department, to report that Bryan Kind, a 29-year-old man, was using a mobile app to chat with his stepdaughter in a way that he found alarming and inappropriate.

The case that emerged would become an example of how police departments close investigations by exceptional clearance without having fully exhausted all available avenues. It also represents a case in which the classification was used improperly. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 November 2018 at 7:56 am

Great story: This 31-year-old had had enough. So she ran. And won.

leave a comment »

Karen Tumulty writes in the Washington Post:

What finally did it for Kathy Hoffman was watching the confirmation hearing of Betsy DeVos nearly two years ago.

Hoffman, then a 31-year-old speech therapist in a suburban Phoenix public school district, could not contain her dismay as she saw President Trump’s nominee for education secretary stumble over basic policy questions and suggest that guns should be allowed in schools at which a grizzly bear might appear.

“It was very clear from many of her statements she had never spent any time in a school,” Hoffman recalls.

So she turned to her husband, Justin, and said, “You’re going to think I’m crazy . . .”

Thus began one of the most unlikely stories of an election season that has seen more than its share of them.

A few weeks later, Hoffman announced her candidacy to become Arizona’s superintendent of public instruction. Over the next 21 months, she drove so many miles across this vast state that she wore out her 2004 Prius and had to buy a new one.

Everywhere she went, her message was the same: “I kept talking about my students and my colleagues. I kept it very focused on my classroom experience.”

Initially, not even the teachers unions took her seriously. But astonishingly, Hoffman’s Prius-powered campaign succeeded. She upset seasoned politicians in both the primary and general contests, and became the first Democrat in more than a quarter of a century to be elected the state’s education superintendent.

Now, she is preparing to take the reins of a system that ranks third-lowest in the country on spending per pupil. This year, thousands of Arizona teachers walked out of schools to protest low pay and cuts in resources. On Nov. 6, the state’s voters also gave a resounding no to Proposition 305, which would have drastically expanded publicly funded vouchers for private schools, potentially starving public education even more.

Hoffman’s victory speaks to some of the larger themes for which the 2018 midterm elections will be remembered — one of them being the flood of first-time candidates up and down the ballot who ran and won.

With their life experiences and outsider credibility, they were the antidote to cynicism.

Hoffman also ran at a moment of burgeoning activism by frustrated educators across the nation. There were statewide teacher strikes not only in Arizona but also in West Virginia and Oklahoma, and smaller protests in Kentucky, North Carolina and Colorado.

The American Federation of Teachers counts Hoffman as one of more than 300  of its members who ran for office — triple what the organization had seen in the past. More than 100 of them won, including more than 80 who will be joining state legislatures across the country, where most public education policy is set. In Congress, 2016’s National Teacher of the Year, Jahana Hayes, will become the first African American woman to represent Connecticut.

The main thing Hoffman had going for her, however, was her own tenacity.

“Most people would have said she wouldn’t have had a chance to win, but she just kept knocking out opponent after opponent,” said Arizona Federation of Teachers President Ralph Quintana, who noted that neither his organization nor the Arizona Education Association endorsed Hoffman in the Democratic primary.

It was easy to understand the skepticism, given how outmatched she seemed. Her primary opponent, David Schapira, was a former minority leader of the state Senate. Hoffman won by four percentage points.

In the general election, Hoffman was up against Frank Riggs, a charter-school-movement leader who had also been a three-term congressman in California. Riggs called Hoffman “a very nice young person” but shrugged her off as “inexperienced and extreme.”

When Hoffman went to bed on election night, she was 11,000 votes behind. By the time she woke up, the gap had narrowed to 8,000.

Over the next few days, with most attention riveted on the counting of ballots in Arizona’s photo-finish U.S. Senate race, Hoffman obsessively refreshed the secretary of state’s website, watching her own progress as she steadily gained and eventually overtook Riggs by more than two percentage points. She also, for the first time in months, managed to make it to a yoga class. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 November 2018 at 7:38 pm

Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis

leave a comment »

The article’s title in my emailed newsletter:

Inside Facebook’s meltdown: Enveloped by crises, executives covered up problems and waged war against critics, a Times investigation found.

Sheera Frenkel, Nicholas Confessore, Cecilia Kang, Matthew Rosenberg, and Jack Nicas report in the NY Times:

Sheryl Sandberg was seething.

Inside Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters, top executives gathered in the glass-walled conference room of its founder, Mark Zuckerberg. It was September 2017, more than a year after Facebook engineers discovered suspicious Russia-linked activity on its site, an early warning of the Kremlin campaign to disrupt the 2016 American election. Congressional and federal investigators were closing in on evidence that would implicate the company.

But it wasn’t the looming disaster at Facebook that angered Ms. Sandberg. It was the social network’s security chief, Alex Stamos, who had informed company board members the day before that Facebook had yet to contain the Russian infestation. Mr. Stamos’s briefing had prompted a humiliating boardroom interrogation of Ms. Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, and her billionaire boss. She appeared to regard the admission as a betrayal.

“You threw us under the bus!” she yelled at Mr. Stamos, according to people who were present.

The clash that day would set off a reckoning — for Mr. Zuckerberg, for Ms. Sandberg and for the business they had built together. In just over a decade, Facebook has connected more than 2.2 billion people, a global nation unto itself that reshaped political campaigns, the advertising business and daily life around the world. Along the way, Facebook accumulated one of the largest-ever repositories of personal data, a treasure trove of photos, messages and likes that propelled the company into the Fortune 500.

But as evidence accumulated that Facebook’s power could also be exploited to disrupt elections, broadcast viral propaganda and inspire deadly campaigns of hate around the globe, Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg stumbled. Bent on growth, the pair ignored warning signs and then sought to conceal them from public view. At critical moments over the last three years, they were distracted by personal projects, and passed off security and policy decisions to subordinates, according to current and former executives.

When Facebook users learned last spring that the company had compromised their privacy in its rush to expand, allowing access to the personal information of tens of millions of people to a political data firm linked to President Trump, Facebook sought to deflect blame and mask the extent of the problem.

And when that failed — as the company’s stock price plummeted and sparked a consumer backlash — Facebook went on the attack.

While Mr. Zuckerberg conducted a public apology tour in the last year, Ms. Sandberg has overseen an aggressive lobbying campaign to combat Facebook’s critics, shift public anger toward rival companies and ward off damaging regulation. Facebook employed a Republican opposition-research firm to discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to the liberal financier George Soros. It also tapped its business relationships, persuading a Jewish civil rights group to cast some criticism of the company as anti-Semitic.

In Washington, allies of Facebook, including Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate leader, intervened on its behalf. And Ms. Sandberg wooed or cajoled hostile lawmakers, while trying to dispel Facebook’s reputation as a bastion of Bay Area liberalism.

This account of how Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg navigated Facebook’s cascading crises, much of which has not been previously reported, is based on interviews with more than 50 people. They include current and former Facebook executives and other employees, lawmakers and government officials, lobbyists and congressional staff members. Most spoke on the condition of anonymity because they had signed confidentiality agreements, were not authorized to speak to reporters or feared retaliation.

Facebook declined to make Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg available for comment. In a statement, a spokesman acknowledged that Facebook had been slow to address its challenges but had since made progress fixing the platform.

“This has been a tough time at Facebook and our entire management team has been focused on tackling the issues we face,” the statement said. “While these are hard problems we are working hard to ensure that people find our products useful and that we protect our community from bad actors.”

Even so, trust in the social network has sunk, while its pell-mell growth has slowed. Regulators and law enforcement officials in the United States and Europe are investigating Facebook’s conduct with Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm that worked with Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign, opening up the company to fines and other liability. Both the Trump administration and lawmakers have begun crafting proposals for a national privacy law, setting up a yearslong struggle over the future of Facebook’s data-hungry business model.

“We failed to look and try to imagine what was hiding behind corners,” Elliot Schrage, former vice president for global communications, marketing and public policy at Facebook, said in an interview.

Mr. Zuckerberg, 34, and Ms. Sandberg, 49, remain at the company’s helm, while Mr. Stamos and other high-profile executives have leftafter disputes over Facebook’s priorities. Mr. Zuckerberg, who controls the social network with 60 percent of the voting shares and who approved many of its directors, has been asked repeatedly in the last year whether he should step down as chief executive.

His answer each time: a resounding “No.”

Three years ago, Mr. Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook in 2004 while attending Harvard, was celebrated for the company’s extraordinary success. Ms. Sandberg, a former Clinton administration official and Google veteran, had become a feminist icon with the publication of her empowerment manifesto, “Lean In,” in 2013.

Like other technology executives, Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg cast their company as a force for social good. Facebook’s lofty aims were emblazoned even on securities filings: “Our mission is to make the world more open and connected.”

But as Facebook grew, so did the hate speech, bullying and other toxic content on the platform. When researchers and activists in Myanmar, India, Germany and elsewhere warned that Facebook had become an instrument of government propaganda and ethnic cleansing, the company largely ignored them. Facebook had positioned itself as a platform, not a publisher. Taking responsibility for what users posted, or acting to censor it, was expensive and complicated. Many Facebook executives worried that any such efforts would backfire.

Then Donald J. Trump ran for president. He described Muslim immigrants and refugees as a danger to America, and in December 2015 posted a statement on Facebook calling for a “total and complete shutdown” on Muslims entering the United States. Mr. Trump’s call to arms — widely condemned by Democrats and some prominent Republicans — was shared more than 15,000 times on Facebook, an illustration of the site’s power to spread racist sentiment.

Mr. Zuckerberg, who had helped found a nonprofit dedicated to immigration reform, was appalled, said employees who spoke to him or were familiar with the conversation. He asked Ms. Sandberg and other executives if Mr. Trump had violated Facebook’s terms of service.

The question was unusual. Mr. Zuckerberg typically focused on broader technology issues; politics was Ms. Sandberg’s domain. In 2010, Ms. Sandberg, a Democrat, had recruited a friend and fellow Clinton alum, Marne Levine, as Facebook’s chief Washington representative. A year later, after Republicans seized control of the House, Ms. Sandberg installed another friend, a well-connected Republican: Joel Kaplan, who had attended Harvard with Ms. Sandberg and later served in the George W. Bush administration.

Some at Facebook viewed Mr. Trump’s 2015 attack on Muslims as an opportunity to finally take a stand against the hate speech coursing through its platform. But Ms. Sandberg, who was edging back to work after the death of her husband several months earlier, delegated the matter to Mr. Schrage and Monika Bickert, a former prosecutor whom Ms. Sandberg had recruited as the company’s head of global policy. Ms. Sandberg also turned to the Washington office — particularly to Mr. Kaplan, said people who participated in or were briefed on the discussions.

In video conference calls between the Silicon Valley headquarters and Washington, the three officials construed their task narrowly. They parsed the company’s terms of service to see if the post, or Mr. Trump’s account, violated Facebook’s rules.

Mr. Kaplan argued that Mr. Trump was an important public figure and that shutting down his account or removing the statement could be seen as obstructing free speech, said three employees who knew of the discussions. He also said it could also stoke a conservative backlash.

“Don’t poke the bear,” Mr. Kaplan warned.

Mr. Zuckerberg did not participate in the debate. Ms. Sandberg attended some of the video meetings but rarely spoke.

Mr. Schrage concluded that Mr. Trump’s language had not violated Facebook’s rules and that the candidate’s views had public value. “We were trying to make a decision based on all the legal and technical evidence before us,” he said in an interview.

In the end, Mr. Trump’s statement and account remained on the site. When Mr. Trump won election the next fall, giving Republicans control of the White House as well as Congress, Mr. Kaplan was empowered to plan accordingly. The company hired a former aide to Mr. Trump’s new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, along with lobbying firms linked to Republican lawmakers who had jurisdiction over internet companies.

But inside Facebook, new troubles were brewing.

Minimizing Russia’s Role

In the final months of Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, Russian agents escalated a yearlong effort to hack and harass his Democratic opponents, culminating in the release of thousands of emails stolen from prominent Democrats and party officials.

Facebook had said nothing publicly about any problems on its own platform. But in the spring of 2016, a company expert on Russian cyberwarfare spotted something worrisome. He reached out to his boss, Mr. Stamos.

Mr. Stamos’s team discovered that Russian hackers appeared to be probing Facebook accounts for people connected to the presidential campaigns, said two employees. Months later, as Mr. Trump battled Hillary Rodham Clinton in the general election, the team also found Facebook accounts linked to Russian hackers who were messaging journalists to share information from the stolen emails.

Mr. Stamos, 39, told Colin Stretch, Facebook’s general counsel, about the findings, said two people involved in the conversations. At the time, Facebook had no policy on disinformation or any resources dedicated to searching for it.

Mr. Stamos, acting on his own, then directed a team to scrutinize the extent of Russian activity on Facebook. In December 2016, after Mr. Zuckerberg publicly scoffed at the idea that fake news on Facebook had helped elect Mr. Trump, Mr. Stamos — alarmed that the company’s chief executive seemed unaware of his team’s findings — met with Mr. Zuckerberg, Ms. Sandberg and other top Facebook leaders.

Ms. Sandberg was angry. Looking into the Russian activity without approval, she said, had left the company exposed legally. Other executives asked Mr. Stamos why they had not been told sooner.

Still, Ms. Sandberg and Mr. Zuckerberg decided to expand on Mr. Stamos’s work, creating a group called Project P, for “propaganda,” to study false news on the site, according to people involved in the discussions. By January 2017, the group knew that Mr. Stamos’s original team had only scratched the surface of Russian activity on Facebook, and pressed to issue a public paper about their findings.

But Mr. Kaplan and other Facebook executives objected. Washington was already reeling from an official finding by American intelligence agencies that Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president, had personally ordered an influence campaign aimed at helping elect Mr. Trump.

If Facebook implicated Russia further, Mr. Kaplan said, Republicans would accuse the company of siding with Democrats. And if Facebook pulled down the Russians’ fake pages, regular Facebook users might also react with outrage at having been deceived: His own mother-in-law, Mr. Kaplan said, had followed a Facebook page created by Russian trolls.

Ms. Sandberg sided with Mr. Kaplan, recalled four people involved. Mr. Zuckerberg — who spent much of 2017 on a national “listening tour,” feeding cows in Wisconsin and eating dinner with Somali refugees in Minnesota — did not participate in the conversations about the public paper. When it was published that April, the word “Russia” never appeared.

Ms. Sandberg’s subordinates took a similar approach in Washington, where the Senate had begun pursuing its own investigation, led by Richard Burr, the North Carolina Republican, and Mark Warner, the Virginia Democrat. Throughout the spring and summer of 2017, Facebook officials repeatedly played down Senate investigators’ concerns about the company, while publicly claiming there had been no Russian effort of any significance on Facebook.

But inside the company, employees were tracing more ads, pages and groups back to Russia. That June, a Times reporter provided Facebook a list of accounts with suspected ties to Russia, seeking more information on their provenance. By August 2017, Facebook executives concluded that the situation had become what one called a “five-alarm fire,” said a person familiar with the discussions.

Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg agreed to go public with some findings, and laid plans to release a blog post on Sept. 6, 2017, the day of the company’s quarterly board meeting.

After Mr. Stamos and his team drafted the post, however, Ms. Sandberg and her deputies insisted it be less specific. She and Mr. Zuckerberg also asked Mr. Stamos and Mr. Stretch to brief the board’s audit committee, chaired by Erskine Bowles, the patrician investor and White House veteran.

Mr. Stretch and Mr. Stamos went into more detail with the audit committee than planned, warning that Facebook was likely to find even more evidence of Russian interference.

The disclosures set off Mr. Bowles, who after years in Washington could anticipate how lawmakers might react. He grilled the two men, occasionally cursing, on how Facebook had allowed itself to become a tool for Russian interference. He demanded to know why it had taken so long to uncover the activity, and why Facebook directors were only now being told.

When the full board gathered later that day at a room at the company’s headquarters reserved for sensitive meetings, Mr. Bowles pelted questions at Facebook’s founder and second-in-command. Ms. Sandberg, visibly unsettled, apologized. Mr. Zuckerberg, stone-faced, whirred through technical fixes, said three people who attended or were briefed on the proceedings.

Later that day, the company’s abbreviated blog post went up. It said little about fake accounts or the organic posts created by Russian trolls that had gone viral on Facebook, disclosing only that Russian agents had spent roughly $100,000 — a relatively tiny sum — on approximately 3,000 ads.

Just one day after the company’s carefully sculpted admission, The Times published an investigation of further Russian activity on Facebook, showing how Russian intelligence had used fake accounts to promote emails stolen from the Democratic Party and prominent Washington figures.

A Political Playbook

The combined revelations infuriated Democrats, finally fracturing the political consensus that had protected Facebook and other big tech companies from Beltway interference. Republicans, already concerned that the platform was censoring conservative views, accused Facebook of fueling what they claimed were meritless conspiracy charges against Mr. Trump and Russia. Democrats, long allied with Silicon Valley on issues including immigration and gay rights, now blamed Mr. Trump’s win partly on Facebook’s tolerance for fraud and disinformation.

After stalling for weeks, Facebook eventually agreed to hand over the Russian posts to Congress. Twice in October 2017, Facebook was forced to revise its public statements, finally acknowledging that close to 126 million people had seen the Russian posts.

The same month, Mr. Warner and Senator Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota Democrat, introduced legislation to compel Facebook and other internet firms to disclose who bought political ads on their sites — a significant expansion of federal regulation over tech companies.

“It’s time for Facebook to let all of us see the ads bought by Russians *and paid for in Rubles* during the last election,” Ms. Klobuchar wrote on her own Facebook page.

Facebook girded for battle. Days after the bill was unveiled, Facebook hired Mr. Warner’s former chief of staff, Luke Albee, to lobby on it. Mr. Kaplan’s team took a larger role in managing the company’s Washington response, routinely reviewing Facebook news releases for words or phrases that might rile conservatives.

Ms. Sandberg also reached out to Ms. Klobuchar. She had been friendly with the senator, who is featured on the website for Lean In, Ms. Sandberg’s empowerment initiative. Ms. Sandberg had contributed a blurb to Ms. Klobuchar’s 2015 memoir, and the senator’s chief of staff had previously worked at Ms. Sandberg’s charitable foundation.

But in a tense conversation shortly after the ad legislation was introduced, Ms. Sandberg complained about Ms. Klobuchar’s attacks on the company, said a person who was briefed on the call. Ms. Klobuchar did not back down on her legislation. But she dialed down her criticism in at least one venue important to the company: After blasting Facebook repeatedly that fall on her own Facebook page, Ms. Klobuchar hardly mentioned the company in posts between November and February.

A spokesman for Ms. Klobuchar said in a statement that Facebook’s lobbying had not lessened her commitment to holding the company accountable. “Facebook was pushing to exclude issue ads from the Honest Ads Act, and Senator Klobuchar strenuously disagreed and refused to change the bill,” he said.

In October 2017, Facebook also expanded its work with a Washington-based consultant, Definers Public Affairs, that had originally been hired to monitor press coverage of the company. Founded by veterans of Republican presidential politics, Definers specialized in applying political campaign tactics to corporate public relations — an approach long employed in Washington by big telecommunications firms and activist hedge fund managers, but less common in tech.

Definers had established a Silicon Valley outpost earlier that year, led by Tim Miller, a former spokesman for Jeb Bush who preached the virtues of campaign-style opposition research. For tech firms, he argued in one interview, a goal should be to “have positive content pushed out about your company and negative content that’s being pushed out about your competitor.”

Facebook quickly adopted that strategy. In November 2017, the social network came out in favor of a bill called the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, which made internet companies responsible for sex trafficking ads on their sites.

Google and others had fought the bill for months, worrying it would set a cumbersome precedent. But the sex trafficking bill was championed by Senator John Thune, a Republican of South Dakota who had pummeled Facebook over accusations that it censored conservative content, and Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat and senior commerce committee member who was a frequent critic of Facebook.

Facebook broke ranks with other tech companies, hoping the move would help repair relations on both sides of the aisle, said two congressional staffers and three tech industry officials.

When the bill came to a vote in the House in February, Ms. Sandberg offered public support online, urging Congress to “make sure we pass meaningful and strong legislation to stop sex trafficking.”

Opposition Research

In March, The Times and The Observer/Guardian prepared to publish a joint investigation into how Facebook user data had been appropriated by Cambridge Analytica to profile American voters. A few days before publication, The Times presented Facebook with evidence that copies of improperly acquired Facebook data still existed, despite earlier promises by Cambridge executives and others to delete it.

Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg met with their lieutenants to determine a response. They decided to pre-empt the stories, saying in a statement published late on a Friday night that Facebook had suspended Cambridge Analytica from its platform. The executives figured that getting ahead of the news would soften its blow, according to people in the discussions.

They were wrong. The story drew worldwide outrage, prompting lawsuits and official investigations in Washington, London and Brussels. For days, Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg remained out of sight, mulling how to respond. While the Russia investigation had devolved into an increasingly partisan battle, the Cambridge scandal set off Democrats and Republicans alike. And in Silicon Valley, other tech firms began exploiting the outcry to burnish their own brands. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Does it strike you that Facebook management is incompetent?

Written by LeisureGuy

14 November 2018 at 2:18 pm

Military Experts Say We Should Cut Medicare to Fund Bigger Military

leave a comment »

Kevin Drum posts at Mother Jones:

Here is a very brief history of the US military:

1976: “Team B” report concludes that we are woefully underprepared to fight the Soviet Union and that we need an enormous defense buildup.

2001: After 9/11, military concludes that we are too focused on old-fashioned war against Russia and China. We need an enormous defense buildup focused on counterinsurgency, especially in the Middle East.

2018: NDSC report says we have been too focused on terrorism and counterinsurgency in the Middle East. We are dangerously vulnerable to great power attacks and need an enormous defense buildup focused on Russia and China.

Back and forth, back and forth. But perhaps you noticed the common thread here: the words “enormous defense buildup” in all three. Somehow, we always need an enormous defense buildup. In particular, a new report from the National Defense Strategy Commission says we are facing a “crisis” in our military posture and we need the following:

The United States and its NATO allies must rebuild military force capacity and capability in Europe…. U.S. military posture in the Middle East should not become dramatically smaller…. The Army will need more armor, long-range fires, engineering and air-defensive units, as well as additional air-defense and logistical forces…. The Navy must expand its submarine fleet and dramatically recapitalize and expand its military sealift forces…. The Air Force will need more stealthy long-range fighters and bombers, tankers, lift capacity, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms…. The United States must maintain the Marine Corps at no less than its current size…. It is urgently necessary to modernize the U.S. nuclear triad and much of the supporting infrastructure…. DOD should invest in a robust R&D program to anticipate future threats, operate effectively from space, and enhance resiliency…. DOD must ensure a substantial, sustainable, and rapidly scalable supply of preferred weapons such as Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER), Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), and a longer-range High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM)…. DOD must invest in a more resilient and secure logistics and transportation infrastructure…. Congress should eliminate the final two years of caps under the BCA.

Whew! That’s quite a shopping list. But how are we going to pay for it? I draw your attention especially to Recommendation 31:

Defense spending, and discretionary spending more broadly, are not primary drivers of the federal deficit. Recommendation: Congress should look to the entire federal budget, especially entitlements, as well as taxes, to set the nation on a more stable financial footing.

Translation for ordinary people: We should cut Social Security, Medicare, and the social safety net in order to pay for a massive increase in the defense budget. This is despite the fact that we have:

  • 11 carrier strike groups compared to 1 each for China and Russia
  • 12,000 aircraft compared to about 4,000 each for China and Russia.
  • 14 nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines compared to 13 for Russia and 4 for China.
  • 51 nuclear-powered attack submarines compared to 22 for Russia and 5 for China
  • Several hundred fifth-generation stealth fighters compared to approximately none for Russia and China
  • 84 Aegis guided missile destroyers and cruisers compared to about a dozen for Russia and 30 for China
  • About 6,000 nuclear missiles compared to 6,000 for Russia and 300 for China.

And so on. But we still need more. Ever, ever more.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 November 2018 at 11:26 am

%d bloggers like this: