12 June 2019

What Happens When A DA Commits Lots Of Brady Violations?

One of the dirty little secrets of the American criminal justice system is that when a prosecuting attorney violates his or her ethical duty to disclose all evidence that potentially exonerates a criminal defendant to the defendant's lawyer, often causing a wrongful conviction for a crime, the attorney rarely suffers any consequence for the lapse even though a court of law in the criminal case found that the attorney violated this ethical duty. 

A DA in rural Southern Colorado, Francis Ruybalid, didn't just violate this duty. He violated in more than 150 different cases, resulting in 15 of those convictions including convictions for child abuse, domestic violence and murder being thrown out.

What consequences did this DA suffer? 

He resigned as DA, and in exchange for admitting to more than 24 ethical violations, his law license was placed on probation. The Colorado Supreme Court, in a case of first impression, denied him reimbursement for the $223,000 of attorneys fees and litigation costs that he incurred defending himself against the ethics charges, because they involved reckless or knowing conduct which the Court held was not within the scope of his official duties as a DA.

Additional details and a photograph can be found in an article at the Colorado Sun.

Then, this bad lawyer became someone else's problem. He was hired by the state of New Mexico to be an attorney for the Children, Youth & Families Department, where he will presumably be charged with bringing lawsuits on behalf of the state to terminate the parental rights of parents whom investigators believe have committed serious child abuse and neglect. 

So, he was out $223,000 and he had to move and take a new job with what was probably a modest pay cut and a huge drop in authority and prestige from head of a District Attorneys' office for more than one county supervising other prosecutors, to a job as a rank and file lawyer handling individual cases and probably having no more supervisory authority than he might share with other lawyers and managers in the department over a secretary, paralegal and the investigators involved in particular child abuse and neglect cases. He could conceivably also be called upon to handle juvie jail discipline cases and probation revocation cases for juveniles sentenced after committing crimes as minors.

He didn't lose his license to practice law or even have it briefly suspended. New Mexico didn't decline to let him have a law licenses as a result and he probably received reciprocity in admissions to the practice of law in New Mexico despite his disciplinary record. 

And, because prosecutors have "absolute immunity" for their judicial system conduct (although not for investigative matters), none of the criminal defendants who received unjust punishment because exculpatory evidence was withheld, and none of the victims who had crimes committed against them go unpunished because the DA screwed up can sue him. Some of those unpunished criminals are on the streets and may commit further crimes as a result. On the other hand, even if he could have been sued by the injured parties, realistically, he was probably virtually judgment proof once he had paid his lawyers (who are probably going to get stiffed for some part of his legal bill themselves).

It is worth noting, however, that if a DA isn't entitled to indemnification from the County for this conduct because it didn't fall within his official duties, perhaps his absolute immunity from civil liability for his official conduct in judicial proceedings (as opposed to investigative proceeding where the immunity is merely "qualified") doesn't apply either. There are lots of cases in other jurisdictions that hold that Brady violations do not impair a DA's absolute immunity, but those cases, unlike future cases in Colorado, would not have had the foundation of this case defining in advance the scope of an attorney's official actions, upon which to build a case. 

The resulting rule, which would allow District Attorneys to be sued only when they had been adjudicated to have committed ethical violations in a manner that was outside the DA's officials duties, would actually be a very management and reasonable way to balance the need to limit collateral litigation against prosecuting attorneys by convicted criminals, while remedying legitimate wrongs where liability is basically established independently before the case begins. The same rule could even be applied to judges who generally have absolute immunity.

So, all in all, while this bad lawyer's ethical violations, unlike so many prosecutors who commit similar violations (although rarely so pervasively) did have quite meaningful consequences, they weren't all that severe either in proportion to the harm he did.

Now, in his defense, this incident arguably looks like a classic case of the Peter Principle, "which observes that people in a hierarchy tend to rise to their "level of incompetence". In other words, an employee is promoted based on their success in previous jobs until they reach a level at which they are no longer competent, as skills in one job do not necessarily translate to another." 

As a lawyer its his job to know how to do that and get it done, and if he didn't know that he wasn't getting that part of his job done, he should have known. So it really wasn't as he argued in Court, mere negligence (although the Court could very easily have reached the opposite conclusion and found that while he did his job unethically that he was still doing his job). More likely, he wasn't confident enough to make the waves and direct people in a manner to make sure that this bureaucratically very cumbersome obligation was fulfilled.

Basically, it is certainly possible that he was competent enough to do the job of a junior prosecutor, but once he was elected to be the DA, everyone discovered that he was an incompetent manager whose failure to establish proper office procedures, which was his job, led to widespread and systemic violations of the constitutional rights of criminal defendants. So, perhaps, now that he has returned to his previous more humble level of responsibility, he may do just fine.

Also, assistant district attorneys in Southern Colorado are hardly the best paid attorneys admitted to the bar. According to Zip Recruiter:
[A]s of Jun 5, 2019, the average annual pay for an Assistant District Attorney in Colorado is $65,363 a year. While ZipRecruiter is seeing annual salaries as high as $84,284 and as low as $47,825, the majority of Assistant District Attorney salaries currently range between $53,033 (25th percentile) to $79,549 (75th percentile) in Colorado.
The high is probably in the Second Judicial District which is Denver, which has a high cost of living. The Third Judicial District probably has below average pay for its assistant district attorneys' overall, although this would have been balanced out somewhat by seniority. Still, it is safe to say that immediately before being elected DA, Francis Ruybalid was probably earning $75,000 a year or less, and he would have made less in the earlier years of his career. This is enough to live comfortably in rural Southern Colorado, but it almost means that paying for $223,000 of legal fees out of his own pocket probably wipes out a very large share of his entire net worth.

Since this is a contactual debt owed to his attorneys to the extent it hasn't already been paid, it can surely be discharged in bankruptcy, but bankruptcy may very well be in his future if he can't work out a payment plan for any unpaid balances with his ethics defense lawyers who still, at least, left him employable.

Flying My Otaku Flag

So, I'm watching an anime on Hulu called "Samurai Harem", which as the name suggests is totally frivolous piffle. But, even this can make you think.

* One of the characters speaks in archaic Japanese which is translated into English with words like thee, thou, and dost. I wish I knew the Japanese language well enough to figure out what is being done in the original to convey this archaic sense.

* Episode 3 has a scene where a new transfer student (Tsubame) to a reasonably ordinary urban high school is asked all sorts of questions from kids in the class to get acquainted to which the transfer student who has lived all of her life in strict training to be a martial artists in the remote mountains can't answer, defeating her earnest hopes of finally living life as a "normal" girl.

She can't tell them which school she transferred from because she's always been home schooled in solitary study. She can't tell them what her parents do or where she lives because she's been raised in a shadowy underworld in the mountains. She can't tell them her interests because it would seem strange to explain that she hasn't been allowed to have any because her entire life has been devoted to being trained to be a martial artist successor to her family's school of martial arts techniques for her entire life whether she likes it or not. She doesn't have a favorite sweet because she's never been allowed to eat them. She doesn't have a favorite TV show because they didn't have a TV and doesn't have any kind of popular music that she listens to because she hasn't been allowed to have a radio or music players.

From there is departs into plot specific directions, but as someone who has a nephew who has been entirely home schooled, and two nieces who have been almost entirely home schooled (one of whom has also had sustained very disciplined violin training), and having raised my own children when they were younger with limited access to sweets and very little television, it strikes a cord.

* There are little aspects of Japanese culture that are also fascinating. 

For example, light hearted "harem" anime are a fairly established genre in manga and anime, which will almost certainly never go "mainstream" in American culture because it crosses lines that Puritan influenced American's sensibilities aren't comfortable crossing, either on grounds that is is immoral (e.g. playfully and in jest sexualizing characters in their early teens) or anti-feminist.

Similarly, characters who are forced to carry on a family business or legacy or occupation or to marry someone to whom they were engaged by their parents as children or in connection with a business deal, are a cliche trope in Japanese fiction and while the characters sometimes fight against it and more often submit in their own fashion, it doesn't come across as outrageous and shocking and absolutely unacceptable in the same way that it does when American fiction puts an American character in a situation like that (which it does far less often). Attitudes about the social acceptability of imposing major life decisions on young adults, and about the socially acceptable and honorable ways to respond to those kinds of impositions is very different.

Note, to be clear, I am not making the inference that the way things are depicted in Japanese popular fiction are the way that they actually are in Japan, any more than one could assume that U.S. popular fiction depicts the way that things really are in the U.S. 

Instead, I am suggesting that one can look at each of them in a meta way to illustrate ways that certain key values and attitude differ, at least in degree. 

A lot of comedy, both in Japan and the U.S., is funny because the characters do things that cross boundaries of social acceptability and proper conduct in small and big ways. You learn about a culture from comedy not by assuming that people in real life will act like the fictional characters, but by learning that acting the way a character does when laugh tracks are triggered would be something that in real life would be considered terribly awkward and embarrassing. 

Similarly, when an issue that would be very sensitive in U.S. culture that would trigger strong emotions, perhaps embarrassment, perhaps fury, perhaps pride at having succeeded in some respect in living up to social pressures is just no a big deal or has no real emotional valence in Japanese fiction, its fair to infer the line of acceptability or emotional trigger point that a situation would involve in U.S. life isn't located in the same place in Japanese culture.

Another theme that runs across all kinds of Japanese fiction very heavily, is a very strong Japanese conviction that almost no one, even a villain, is truly irredeemable, while it is quite common place, and even routine to the point of almost being a default assumption in U.S. fiction, that some people are just plain evil, irredeemably. Japanese fiction certainly has villains, people who do bad things, and bad people, but it has far fewer people who are inherently evil though and through and are incapable of being persuaded otherwise in any way.

There are also some prosaic details about life in Japan that can fairly be assumed to somewhat reflect actual Japanese life after seeing it repeated as basically background material over and over again while consuming lots of Japanese fiction and a smattering of non-fictional accounts of Japanese life.

* Japanese high schools publicly display everyone's academic performance and class rank, something that federal educational privacy laws in the U.S. largely prohibit.

* The curriculum in Japanese high schools typically includes fairly advanced math, some science instruction, pretty intensive and detailed Japanese history, classic Japanese literature, English, and PE. On average, high school is more academically intense and rigorous in Japan than in the U.S., although the reverse is true to some extent at the higher educational level in Japan.

* Extra-curricular after school clubs are an important part of high school life in Japan and students with initiative can usually form their own clubs.

* Flower arranging and tea ceremonies are hobbies with a real following among both high schoolers and adults.

* Manga and anime are quite widely consumed by young adults and even older audiences.

* Japanese school children carry out a lot of the cleaning tasks on a rotating chore basis within each homeroom class that would usually be done by professional janitors in U.S. schools.

* Japanese high school typically have an annual cultural festival in which each class has to put on democratically agreed to event or presentation such as a play, dance performance or pop up theme restaurant.

* Japanese people travel within major cities and between cities via train to a much greater extent than U.S. people do, and buses are used in rural Japan far more than they are in the rural U.S.

* Natural outdoor geothermal hot spring bath resorts are a fairly popular field trip/getaway vacation in Japan.

* Canned drinks from vending machines that aren't soda are quite common in Japan.

* Most elementary and secondary school students where school uniforms to school, often with summer and winter versions, and with the uniform for girls usually including a blouse and skirt. the designs distinguish one school from another.

* The structure of student government in Japan from class representatives up to a school wide set of student government officers seems to be quite similar from school to school in structure and responsibilities. Enforcing minor discipline on fellow students and organizing school wide festivals are a couple of the things it handles.

* At the beginning of the school year there is usually a big assembly, for incoming students at least, at which it is customary for the academically best incoming student to give a speech.

* Good academic performance is viewed more positively and is more salient in how one is viewed in Japanese schools than in U.S. schools.

* Japanese high schools usually arrange one or more sessions with what we would call a guidance counsellor in the U.S. where each student personally discussed after graduation plans for further schooling or work or career paths based upon a sheet submitted to the guidance counsellor in advance of the meeting. Guidances counsellors aren't particular pushy in these sessions but will prod a student a little to see if the plan is really realistic or appropriate and will offer some insights to the student on what the student has to do in order to continue on that path.

* Most Japanese elementary and secondary students walk, bike or take a train (or a mix of the above) to school. Taking a dedicated school bus to school, as opposed to on a school activity, is quite uncommon.

* Japanese school students have cell phones at least as often as American students do and use them in fairly similar ways.

* Japanese school student usually remove their shoes and leave them in a shoe cubby near the entrance and change into slippers when indoors. Someone's shoe cubby is also a convenient place to leave someone an anonymous or not so anonymous note.

* Japanese homeroom classes in elementary school and high school typically have a two character code with the first being a number identifying the year of the student at the school (e.g. second year students), and the next identifying which academic track the class is in ranked from highest at the beginning to lowest at the end. The fact that classes are tracked isn't hidden from students.

* Late in high school, college bound kids tend to spend long hours in cram school preparing for high stakes, content heavy, college entrance exams that everybody in the country takes at more or less the same time.

* While Japanese high schools sometimes have formal dances, there aren't as many school sponsored dances as there would be in a U.S. high school, the format is a bit more flexible, and the dances aren't closely tied to the athletic calendar for major sports.

* Cheer leading is not as much of an institution in Japan as it is in the U.S.

* Elementary and secondary school students in Japan don't play football or lacrosse with any frequency, but do play basketball and soccer. Competitive track and field, swimming, archery and kendo are fairly common individual sports in Japanese schools.

* Japanese schools almost always have a nurses office staffed with a nurse and are quite lax about allowing students to go there for woes that would typically not be sufficient to allow a U.S. student to go to a nurses office.

* While Japan has nudity taboos, they aren't quite as strong as in the U.S. in terms of media presentations of nudity.

* Japanese people utilize hospital care much more frequently than Americans do and it doesn't cost a lot to the user at the time, if it costs anything.

* Japan has some prestigious private schools at the elementary and secondary level. But, elementary and at least some secondary education are pretty much universal, although not everyone pursues higher education and some people pursue trade schools rather than working or higher education.

* While there are some single sex schools in Japan, they aren't common, and in mixed sex schools in Japan boys and girls interact with each other pretty much as freely as they would in a U.S. high school (except, often, for PE).

* The kinds of foods that people have for various meals at home and eating out, respectively, seem to be not terribly different from what people actually eat. For example, hot pot is often seen as a celebratory group food, rice balls are often one of the first things someone learning to cook learns to make, omurice is something of a comfort food, and bento boxes are pretty common for lunch (often with childish designs for younger children). Lots of Japanese food is some combination of rice and fish or some other sea sourced food (e.g. nori, octopus, etc.). Watermelons are considered something of a summer celebratory/prosperity food. People in hard economic straights and students living on their own often give up chicken and beef. Lamb is rare in Japanese food and leavened Western style bread is fairly rare in Japan although that is changing. Japanese portion sizes tend to be small by American standards although this is changing somewhat over time.

* Not many Japanese people strive for sobriety. Drinking various kinds of alcohol is a normal part of life.

* Lots of people in Japan use sleeping mats rather than full fledge beds with mattresses and box springs.

* Bleaching or dying one's hair is a pretty common form of teen and young adult low key rebellion against conformity in Japan, as are piercings, but even individuals who visibly are defiant or different in this way in Japan are far more polite and respect social norms and expectations more than a person with a comparable appearance in the U.S. or Western Europe.

* Japanese people consider themselves superior to Koreans and distrust white people and black people as well as foreigners in general. All non-Japanese people are considered to be elevated crime risks.

* Japanese people in current and recent generations are much taller than Japanese people were in my parent's generation and are now within more or less the same range of heights as Americans and Europeans, although with fewer really high extremes.

* Smoking is more common and more acceptable for middle class and above people in Japan than in the U.S.

* The Japanese drive on the left side of the road.

* People in the Southern islands of the Japanese archipelago, like Okinawa, have a distinct Japanese accent who roughly corresponds to a "hick" or "country" accent in American English, and come across to people from one of Japan's big cities as country rubes to some extent. 

* Divorce is fairly rare in Japan and carries more of a stigma, but does not tend to involve a protracted and involved legal fight. Children in a Japanese divorce are typically assigned entirely to one parent or the other with  the other parent having no parental rights at all and typically almost no contact. Siblings are sometimes split between parties and completely separated from each other. Alimony doesn't really exist after the divorce process is over, but there are sometimes fairly modest child support payments. Japanese women who are unhappy in their marriages face strong peer, family and community social expectations pressure to suck it up and continue in the marriage in all but the most dire circumstances.

* Unmarried childless women in the workforce are treated fairly comparably to men, and there are a significant number of women (mostly unmarried and childless, but not entirely) in important managerial and professional positions in the work force. A more stereotypical career path for an upper middle class Japanese woman is to attend college, get a job as an "office lady" at a big firm which involves a mix of administrative/clerical and hospitality responsibilities while living either with parents or in an apartment (often with roommates), then dating and marrying, quitting the job and having kids and raising them for many years.

* Japanese full time jobs often involve substantial expectations of after work socializing with work colleagues.

* Most places in Japan have rather elaborate trash collection rules with different kinds of recycling and trash require to be sorted and placed in the appropriate receptacles at the right places at the right times.

* There isn't a lot of litter in most places in Japan by U.S. standards.

* Politeness and using the proper honorifics when talking with someone in Japan is a big deal. 

* There are a number of festivals that are a big deal in Japan including a cherry blossom festival, festivals specific to a particular local area, and activities in and around Golden Week. At night, a typical festival has long rows of stalls with games, trinkets, live fish, and street food on offer. Often women and not infrequently men as well, will wear traditional kimono style Japanese dress to a festival. Festivals frequently end with evening fireworks. Another activity during many festivals, especially around the Asian New Year, is to go to a shrine, and while there to offer prayers and hopes, and perhaps to have one's fortunes told.

* Access to guns in Japan is very had to get unless you are in the military or are in law enforcement.

* Residual organized crime Yakuza are still a thing that exists in Japan.

* The Japanese monarchy, which is largely symbolic, is widely popular and there is not much agitation to replace it with a pure Republic. 

* Christianity is known but uncommon and considered a bit odd although Christians are often seen as rather earnest. Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Zoroastrians (a.k.a. Parsis) are exceedingly rare to the point of basically being absent. Japanese life isn't particularly religious and includes a mishmash of Shinto (which has elements similar to Chinese folk religion and ancestor worship and animism), Buddhism, a touch of Taoism, and a heavy dose of Confucian personal and daily life values. Lots of people live fairly secular lives. Religious institutions aren't very monolithic or centralized.

11 June 2019

What Should The U.S. Military Prepare To Do?

The U.S. military wastes money in all sorts of ways. It overpays defense contractors and mismanages defense contracts once they are entered into. It has a money is no object philosophy of purchasing. It is a massive bureaucracy with little financial accountability.

Hammers Looking For Nails

But, probably the biggest problem with our military's organization and procurement is that our military does not have a clear idea of what missions it should be prepared to carry out. So, instead of determining what jobs it has to carry out, and then based upon those jobs, deciding what personnel and equipment resources it needs to accomplish those goals, it is a parade of solutions looking for problems and manufacturing the need to address the problems its tools are best suited to solving, whether those are the actual problems it needs to solve or not. 

Further, the set of tools that are contending for resources are heavily influenced by inertia. The number of fighters the Air Force asks for is driven largely by the number of existing fighters that are getting past their due date. The Navy operates the same way, trying to match retiring ships with new ships to replace them.

The Air Force's elite ranks are disproportionately made up of fighter pilots who trained to engage in air to air combat, and so those are the missions it focuses on preparing the Air Force to carry out, whether that is really what we need to carry out the foreseeable missions the military might be called upon to carry out. Never mind that the U.S. military has had only about two instances of air to air combat in the last twenty years. Other missions have atrophied. The Air Force has again and again tried to shirk its responsibility to provide close air support to ground troops. The Air Force has underinvested in transport aircraft and failed to coordinate with other services to make sure that the planes that carry troops and weapons systems are optimized to the needs to the troops and weapons systems that they carry and likewise ground troops have insufficiently tailored their resources to the aircraft available to carry them. 

Naval air isn't necessarily much better even when it is integrated within a single department and military service. For example, the Marines had to reinvent the WWIII Jeep because none of its other vehicles was small enough to be carried on an MV-22 Osprey.  Notwithstanding the fact that D-Day was an Army operation, the Marines see massive amphibious assaults in the image of D-Day as core to their mission and acquire ships, amphibious armored vehicles, landing craft, helicopters, STOVL fighter aircraft and more to carry out that mission. Never mind that the last time that a large scale amphibious assault was important to the outcome of an armed conflict for the U.S. military was more than sixty years ago during the Korean War. And, neither has anyone else.

In World War II, the U.S. Navy fought a lot of battles in which one blue sea warship tried to sink another blue sea warship. You can count on your fingers the number of times that has happened since then with any military force in the world. But, the U.S. still has a fleet of blue sea warships designed to dominate and vastly outnumber of handful of blue sea navies in the world that still exist. Never mind that aircraft and submarines and cruise missiles and long range missiles and sea mines are almost always better at sinking warships than other warships, which are to a great extent sitting ducks that have avoided catastrophe mostly because no one has wanted to be so definitively at war with the nuclear armed United States. The Navy, like the Air Force, has not given as much attention as it should to sealift, sea basing and coastal firepower support for coastal ground troops.

Another important role of the U.S. Navy is anti-piracy, smuggling interdiction, for which billion dollar destroyers, are expensive overkill, but littoral combat ships may not be very effective.

The Army, which has had more actual combat action than any other military force in raw person hours, has finally come to terms with the fact that a 70 ton M1-A1 Abrams tank can't be delivered to the battlefield promptly, is too heavy for many roads and bridges, is too wide for many narrow old world city streets and mountain passes, requires epic supply lines at 0.5 mpg diesel fuel efficiency, and still have some vulnerability to IEDs, light and mechanized infantry with anti-tank weapons, and enemy aircraft and artillery with guided weapons. It also turns out that just as warships aren't necessarily the optimal means of destroying enemy warships, that heavy tanks aren't the optimal means of destroying enemy tanks. Thirty-five ton Bradley "Infantry Fighting Vehicles" armed with small anti-tank missiles, a variety of fighter and bomber aircraft with "smart bombs" and air to ground missiles, and even infantry with anti-tank weapons all proved to be just as effective at destroying enemy tanks (which largely turned out to be sitting ducks) as 70 ton M1-A1 heavy tanks. 

The Army ended up consigning hundreds, if not thousands of heavy tanks to the bone yard and replacing them with wheeled Stryker armored personnel carriers and wheeled MRAPs (mine resistant ambush protected) vehicles in a variety of sizes, many from foreign military suppliers who wouldn't have been able to get a U.S. military contract at all if U.S. suppliers had been ready to deliver vehicles in that class. The new vehicles 

The ubiquitous Humvee meanwhile, while it was arguably had the greatest off road capabilities of any off road light wheeled military vehicle every built, also proved to be a dud that had to be almost entirely replaced. The broad, low design that was great for traversing hills and gullies made it vulnerable to IEDs. The size and off road maximized engine and transmission meant it guzzled gas when pushed into service driving on paved roads in cities and highways and on military bases where the vast majority of vehicular traffic ended up going anyway. Finally, despite being a military vehicle, it offered no meaningful protection from enemy small arms fire, without being up armored. And, when it was up armored, the vehicle was too heavy for a chassis and transmission designed to carry less weight.

The heavy tank and the Humvee both ended up failing not because they were old designs. Both were mid- to late- 1980s vintage when their problems developed in the 1990s, while the Air Force continued to fly B-52s and A-10s, the Navy continued to operate Vietnam era ship designs, and nuclear forces presided over our nuclear arsenal with 5.25" floppy disks inserted into 1970s era computers with CRT screens. They failed because they were designed by teams that were divorced from the needs of troops in a modern active combat zone, and redesigned when experience made their failures obvious.

Still, the Army has its own woes. It has too much artillery given its modern accuracy. It has too few tip of the spear soldiers and can't deploy many of them very quickly. It has weak language and culture resources and weak nation building capabilities. It is still not comfortable with its counterinsurgency role and has shed a lot of highly experienced veteran NCOs and junior officers whose hard won skills may not be available when needed.

What Wars Have We Fought?

The United States had predominantly participated in peace keeping and counterinsurgency missions, and asymmetric warfare in every conflict it has participated in since the Vietnam War. Beirut. Panama. Yugoslavia. The Gulf War. Afghanistan. The Iraq War. Kosovo. Counterinsurgency operations in Somalia. Intervention in a civil war in Libya. Syria and Norther Iraq against ISIS. It has tried to stay out of sub-Saharan Africa but has had a few engagements with small units supporting local forces. The Gulf War and Iraq War did have conventional warfare components, for less than a month each, after which inferior tank heavy ground forces were annihilated

The U.S. Navy has scuffled ever so lightly with Iran and terrorists in the Persian Gulf, with pirates on Middle Eastern sea routes, and with North Korea. It us employed paramilitary forces, mostly Coast Guard, to take on drug smugglers. Most of that has been asymmetric deployment of forces as well.

We have declined to engage nuclear armed Russia in the Ukraine and Black Sea. We have declined to take the bait in the face of aggressive action from Russian and Chinese naval and air forces.

Nobody with the power to really disrupt bureaucratic inertia in the most expensive military force in the world is in a good position to seriously realign our mix of forces and resources to reflect our contemporary needs.

The U.S. has no reason to fear conventional military invasions over land from either Canada or Mexico. The prospect is laughable. There are only a handful of potentially hostile and threatening navies in the world, but the ones most likely to engage us in anger, Iran, Pakistan, and North Korea, have essentially no capacity to cross  either the Pacific Ocean, or the Indian and then Atlantic Oceans to deliver hostile ships to U.S. shores or anywhere close. There are really only two naval forces that are a potential threat to U.S. territory, Russia and China. And, even of those two, the threat that China poses to Hawaii or Guam, for example, is really modest. China is far more of a threat to our East Asian allies Japan, South Korea and Taiwan than it is to the U.S. itself.

Russia does have a blue sea navy, although it is a mere shadow of the Soviet Union's navy at its peak or the U.S. Navy today. It could seriously interfere with global shipping, make naval warfare with our European allies (as it did with Ukraine in attacks that went unanswered), it could bomb Hawaii and Guam and even U.S. coastal areas, it could menace U.S. warships, and it could even conceivably retake control of some largely uninhabited land in Alaska. But, to do so it would have to risk a global nuclear war between two nations easily capable of not just obliterating each other but destroying most human life on the planet. Russia also has long range bombers and missiles that could destroy any U.S. city or military installation anywhere in the world if they more likely than not got at least some of their forces past U.S. defenses, but with the same risks of all out nuclear war.

But, not many other countries that could conceivably be hostile to the U.S. even have long range bomber or missile capabilities that pose any serious threat to U.S. based fighters and air defense resources. There is really not a single country in Latin America that does. There is no country in the Middle East, Africa or South Asia or Southeast Asia that does. Australia and New Zealand are our friends and always will be. There might be a country or two in Eastern Europe that has those capabilities, but they'd have to go through Western European allies or conspire with Russia to do so.

Iran couldn't manage it. Neither could North Korea. China might conceivably have that kind of capability, but it is marginal at best as a threat to the U.S., it risks the same mutual assured destruction threat that Russia does, and China, to a much greater extent than the U.S., needs sustained trade with the U.S. and other countries to provide its own prosperity. China might be able to squash the Philippines or North Korea or Vietnam or Laos or even Nepal or Mozambique or even Taiwan. But, a Chinese war with Japan or South Korea or the U.S. would be catastrophic to its economy.

This analysis should lead to a conclusion that has long been obvious to anyone paying attention. The U.S. military is not primarily or even significantly a self-defense force (nor for that matter is it a force designed to put down domestic insurgencies).

What missions make sense?

I've broken the missions of the U.S. military into two main categories. The first involve lots of genuinely personnel and equipment. The second involve very small forces or paramilitary forces.

Major Military Missions

* Aid key allies against invading or attacking hostile national military forces, usually as part of an international coalition. Some of the key allies to potentially include in international coalitions or to defend against hostile nations include Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, India, Israel, Turkey, and Western Europe. The invading or attacking forces could be North Korea, China, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Russia or certain Eastern European allies of Russia.

Obviously, not all potentially hostile nations are concerns in all locations. In Western Europe, Russia and its Eastern European allies (and perhaps the stray Iranian long range missile) are the only concerns and other threats can be ignored in those areas. Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Eastern European allies of Russia aren't a concern in East Asia or Southeast Asia. Taiwan is worried pretty much exclusively about China. India is worried pretty much exclusively about Pakistan at the near peer level. Israel isn't worried about North Korea, China, Sudan or Eastern Europe and not really even Russia, instead it nears to bear Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other neighbors. Focusing on only plausible conflicts between potential enemies and likely allies can greatly focus training and procurement decisions.

* Deter and interrupt threats to shipping (such as blockades) and commerce from a handful of nations with dangerous, short range, coastal navies (e.g. North Korea, China, Pakistan, Iran), and the only other hostile nation with a blue sea navy (i.e. Russia), often as part of an international coalition.

Again, these are very discrete, predictable, potential conflicts that can be addressed one by one with a focused response to a non-hypothetical adversary.

* Depose genocidal or aggressive regimes, usually as part of an international coalition and then build a successor state.

This is one of the harder scenarios to plan for and is likely to include a shorter heavy conventional weapons phase followed by an asymmetric mostly ground warfare phase.

* Assist friendly regimes, usually as part of an international coalition, in asymmetric counterinsurgency, anti-terrorist and peace keeping operations.

These are ranked from most to least intense/most to least near peer in character.

Almost all major military missions are likely to be part of international coalitions (at a minimum of a key ally's own military and the U.S. supporting it, and often a broad multi-national coalition with varying levels of support from different participants), but our military does almost nothing to integrate this reality into its planning regarding the size of the forces it needs, it operational organization, or its logistics needs. Thought should be given in advance to what part of forces defending against a hostile invasion or attack should be provided locally by the country at risk and what forces should be provided by the U.S. in support. For example, heavy ground systems should probably be pre-placed. Defending islands against tanks makes no sense and defensive tanks on islands should be anti-personnel oriented.

Disarmament treaties involving the most threatening naval and air/missile weapons with a handful of potential threat nations could dramatically reduce the global need for military expenditures by the U.S. and its allies.

A great deal of this involves predominantly asymmetric warfare and dispersed forces in small, unplanned engagements or planned raids. Large, conventional, set piece battles are largely obsolete and where they occur are likely to be brief.

The more near peer conflicts at the top of the list will typically call for very rapid responses before there is a fait accompli.

Military training and military equipment can and should be tailored for the bulk of the military that is devoted to these kinds of missions to a very small number of potential opponents in a quite modest range of locations, especially for the more near peer conflicts. Especially in the case of asymmetric missions procurement decision making should be supervised as much as possible by veteran military officers and NCOs with experience in the kind of conflicts in question.

Military Missions That Are Less Personnel/Equipment Intensive

* Maintain an offensive nuclear missile/bomb arsenal and anti-missile/anti-bomber defenses for a strategic nuclear warfare capability and defense against non-state actors and rogue nations with small nuclear weapons arsenals.  Also defense of space based resources.

This might be a dozen ballistic missile submarines, two or three dozen nuclear bombers, a number of fixed missile bases, some fighters/anti-missile aircraft to interdict enemy aircraft and bombers, some point defense anti-missile/anti-air batteries, and some anti-missile cruisers that would operate close to rogue nations intended to intercept missiles not long after they are launched. This force as a whole might have 50,000 or less active duty military personnel.

* Put down non-state piracy and smuggling (mostly of people, drugs, and weapons), often as part of an international coalition, via lighter naval forces in distant seas.

This might be dozens of small, fast naval ships, associated aircraft (patrol aircraft and helicopters), air based drones, and unmanned surface craft, plus small units for boarding parties. It might have less than 10,000 active duty military personnel. A critical part of this mission is being more cost effective in carrying it out for sustained missions so that there isn't loss via attrition and expense.

* Rescue U.S. citizens abroad and citizens of allied nations.

Marine amphibious ships have taken a lot of this role, but it should be accentuated more clearly. This might have a few thousand active duty military personnel and possibly civilians as well.

* Training and arming allies.

* Protect U.S. trade and business interests and those of our allies abroad from asymmetric opponents and terrorists.

* Protect U..S. embassies.

This involves a few thousand Marine guards who might also be involved in some of the three previous missions.

These missions, while calling for fewer personnel, are still very important and should have integrated forces with specialized training and equipment designed to carry out these missions.

* Provide international aid in all manner of disasters, chaos, outbreaks and violent occurrences, such as providing hospital ships, food and clean water.

This could be done with a few thousand active duty personnel and a civilian aid worker corps.

Domestic Paramilitary Missions

* Respond domestically to rogue aircraft attacks such as 9-11, air piracy, hijackings and attacks with armed aircraft (when small in number, rather than an all out large fleet of near peer aircraft or modern bombers) via the Air National Guard.

This should involve purpose built equipment for this cost sensitive, low level opponent capability mission, such as homeland defense interceptors with no air to ground capability, no stealth, less extreme speed and maneuverability, smaller complements of offensive weapons, if possible non-lethal weapons, lower operating costs and training costs, also anti-missile/anti-aircraft capabilities.

* Put down non-state piracy and smuggling (mostly of people, drugs, and weapons), domestically via the Coast Guard.

This is largely in place.

* Respond to domestic disasters, wild fires and SAR needs via the Air National Guard, National Guard and Coast Guard.

This is largely in place. Also hurricane chase planes.

* Respond to riots and uprisings via the National Guard and Air National Guard.

The National Guard should be specially equipped and trained for these missions rather than for near peer conventional warfare of second or third string round out troops. The Air National Guard should provide short distance transportation of forces and reconnaissance.

07 June 2019

Political Heresy

I am a liberal and I am a loyal Democrat.

I don't really identify as "progressive", among other things, because the original bearers of that label in the late 19th and early 20th century advanced a lot of bad policies like prohibition and emasculating political parties, even though they also advance good policies, like women's suffrage and safety protections for workers.

I also don't like the label "progressive" because there are aspects of the modern "progressive" movement which I don't agree with, and because the movement is too eager to gain support through peer pressure and uncritical acceptance of many positions without careful consideration of the evidence or analysis.

There are definite areas where I do not share the stereotypical or archetypal views of the "progressive" movement.

* I think that we should increase the share of nuclear fission power generation in our economy and find tolerable solutions to nuclear waste and other issues to be dealt with involving it, rather than fearing and opposing it and insisting upon an entirely renewable powered future.

* I think that opposition to GMOs is overblown, even though some caution is in order.

* I think that anti-vaxxers are a serious threat to our nation's well being on a matter of great importance whose views do not deserve the undue respect that they receive because this issue harms people besides themselves.

* I agree that climate change is real, is man made, and is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. But, predictions that human civilization will end in thirty years as a result are hyperbole that discredit the movement.

* I think that large scale industry level decisions and major overarching decisions in one's own personal life matter far more in protecting the environment than day to day personal environmental virtue.

* I acknowledge that organic farm production is good for the environment, but also understand that except in the case of fruits and vegetables that you eat the surface of and eat raw, and the case of hyper-vulnerable people like pregnant and nursing women, very young children, and immune compromised people, that organic foods provide negligible health benefits to the consumer, don't taste better because they are organic, and are not a good choice for people who are struggling to get by economically. Also, they are sometimes actually less safe than non-organic food because organic methods can often fail to remove biological health threats like E. Coli and plant diseases.

* Growing your own food and making your own clothes is not, for the most part, a virtue. We have our advanced society more than anything else because we no longer use the vast majority of the population no longer has to grow their own food and make your own clothes.

* I believe that far too many people erroneously equate "natural" with healthy, when Nature wants you dead at 40, kills five of your seven children before they become adults, kills at least one of your wives in child birth. Our unnatural, technological, urban modern society is responsible for everything else we have in life. For example, I believe that herbal remedies should require more regulation and more evidence based disclosures about their risks and benefits. Similarly, even though I support drug legalization, I find no merit in the argument that marijuana or "magic mushrooms" should be legal because they are "just plants."

* I believe that glorification of rural life and life in the wilderness is largely unjustified and that is it founded upon a whole ecosystem of inaccurate assumptions.

* I do not agree that the main problems of modern society flow from the inherently destructive nature of capitalism that exploits the less well off masses. Capitalism needs to be regulated to prevent externalities, fraud and vulnerability to business cycles. Capitalism also suffers from the sin of ignoring the poor who aren't productive, so it needs to be complemented of obligations to be responsible for others and social safety nets. But, capitalism isn't inherently inconsistent with an environmentally sound world isn't inherently exploitive or particularly prone to exploitation compared to the alternatives, distributes power more equitably than political institutions in most cases, and is a necessary component of a prosperous society.

* I believe that political parties in the U.S. are too weak, not too strong.

* I believe that we spend too little as a society on political campaigns, not too much.

* While it is indeed easy for eugenics based ideologies to drift into being harmful, I don't agree that every kind of disability or birth defect should be embraced as mere diversity and I don't think that it is horrible to consider the issue of when to have children and with whom in light of what approaches tend to produce a better next generation.

* While I acknowledge that castration as a sanction for criminal conduct presents similar risk of bias in application and undue harm when it arises from wrongful convictions, I also think that its capacity to dramatically reduce recidivism in the case of violent crimes committed by men make it an attractive alternative to very long prison sentences which also seek to keep the public safer in a way that is more harmful to the convicted felon and more expensive to society, relative to the public safety gains achieved, in many circumstances. Safe guards like limiting this punishment to cases established with DNA evidence in the case of first offenders, and people who repeatedly commit violent felons, and even making it optional in exchange for large reductions in prison sentences, can mitigate the risks associated with allowing this as a criminal sanction.

* I don't believe that in an ideal society that everyone, or even most people, should go to college. The U.S. economy suffers from excessive degree and credential inflation. For example, elementary school teachers and journalists don't have to have college degrees to do their jobs well, even though they need to be intelligent. I believe that we do children a disservice by insisting that they preserve the opportunity to be President or a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer, in lieu of steering them towards options that are more realistic and attainable that require sacrificing some of these peak possibilities.

* I believe that most political choices have many answers that are objectively wrong, even though there is rarely on one choice that is right. And, I don't have faith that voters will consistently make the right choices. Democracy is important because it enhances support for and the legitimacy of the system and because it gives political decision makers an incentive to advance the interests of and care about a broader group of people whose needs they often don't understand well, not because it is a particularly good method of making correct selections between political choices when one option is objectively (or at least, intersubjectively) better than another. Direct democracy has its place but can frequently produce very bad results (see, e.g., TABOR and the Gallagher Amendment in Colorado).

* I believe that IQ is real, that it has a large hereditary component, and that on the whole standardized testing does more to level the educational playing field than it does to exacerbate inequalities on the basis of demographic identity. I believe that the fear that test preparation provides a decisive benefit to the affluent is empirically wrong (and to the extent true, best mitigated with wider access to test preparation opportunities for the less well off), and that the complaint that standardized tests merely test the ability to take tests even thought some people are very able to "test poorly" is mostly inaccurate. Not everybody has or needs what good test scores and a high IQ makes you better at, and you can leave a good and meaningful life while being unexceptional in those respects, but that doesn't mean that they don't test something that is real and very valuable in modern society. This said, I believe that the hereditary component of IQ is predominantly of "potential IQ" and that seriously harmful environmental factors can and routinely do prevent people from reaching their IQ potential.

* I believe that while there is nothing inherently better or worse about one culture over another in the abstract, or in dignity, that culture does has instrumental value and that in any particular time and place, some cultures are better adapted to the circumstances than others. For example, the culture exemplified by older conservative white Christians in the American South is a dysfunctional anachronism with is less well adapted to 21st century life in the developed world than the culture exemplified by younger liberal demographically diverse people who are concentrated in large urban areas in the American Northeast and on the Pacific Coast.

* I acknowledge that a significant share of "negative" measures of socio-economic success in "Red States" in the South (far more than most liberals are willing to acknowledge) is related a lack of socio-economic success on the part of African-Americans who make up a much larger share of the population in the South than they do in "Blue States", although this certainly isn't the entire story.

* While I understand the reasons for emphasizing the unity of a single human race, and that fact the learned ethnicity is not always congruent with genetic ancestry, I also disagree with the notion that race is purely or primarily a function of self-identification, or that race isn't a real social and cultural phenomena that in intimately tied to similarity in the place of origins of one's deep genetic ancestors. Particular racial categories are socially constructed, but the underlying highly correlated genetic and cultural differences that the every day concepts of race and ethnicity in a particular society at a particular time seek to oversimplify to make them comprehensible are real.

* It is true that there are differences based upon race, ethnicity and gender in the rate at which serious anti-social conduct is engaged in, in the United States today, and adolescent and young adult, native born, African American men are profoundly more likely to engage in conduct the is criminal than, for example, middle aged, foreign born Asian American women. But, it is simultaneously true people who are in demographic categories whose members commit crimes at above average rates are subject to pervasive unequal discrimination at pretty much every stage of the criminal justice system, in educational institutions (apart from undergraduate college admissions), and in the larger socio-economic system.

* It is true that some U.S. demographic groups have higher average IQ than others which gives rise to a significant share of the ethnic inequalities we see in our society. But, this is not because one race is inherently superior to any other. Instead, in the U.S. context, it frequently has to do with a population's immigration history (e.g. many U.S. Asian-American populations are predominantly derived from recent U.S. immigrants who were limited to people with exceptional levels of education and high levels of work skills in a STEM field that are highly atypical of their places of origin, and unsurprisingly members of those populations have above average IQs and over perform in STEM disciplines), and with socio-economic deprivation and racial and ethnic discrimination that has prevented the average members of certain U.S. populations to achieve their full potential in IQ and on other measures.

* I am not opposed in principle to war, I am merely skeptical of proposals to use military force in many particular instances. I recognize that military force or the threat of its use are important tools with which to secure a peaceful society and just societies, and believe that there are circumstances when the use of military force of justified for both defense of one's own people and society, and the protection of other people who are menaced without justification by other people who are using force to advance unjust ends. I don't believe that the ends always justify the means, but I also recognize that many situations unavoidably involve a choice of evils.

* I am not morally opposed to the death penalty in every circumstance, there are crimes for which death is a proportionate punishment, and in societies that don't have the capacity to impose other kinds of sanctions and conduct the process in a different manner, it can be justified on a cost-benefit basis. I do not believe that the fate of death row inmates is anywhere close to being the most important flaw with or aspect of the criminal justice system in the United States today. But, I believe that as applied in the U.S. and particularly as applied in the places where most executions are actually carried out, that it is too deeply flawed in multiple respects to survive a cost-benefit analysis. The process is particularly vulnerable in places where most executions are carried out to producing wrongful convictions, to being applied in a racially biased manner, and to executing people are aren't extraordinarily culpable. The process is also expensive relative to long terms of incarceration, glacially slow, does not provide an effective deterrent to criminal activity relative to the alternatives, and provides less than than more closure and finality to the survivors of murder victims. 

* I think that the left tends to undervalue the benefit of keeping marriages together, especially for children, and gives insufficient weight to the reality than many marriages that aren't optimal for the adults in the couple are nonetheless far superior to separation or divorce for that couple's children. Certainly, there are marriages that are intolerable and need to end, but there are also many marriages that are merely lackluster or experiencing rough patches that society can and should encourage to continue even though this may not optimize the short term happiness of one or both adults in that couple when the couple has children. I also think that the potential harm to an unmarried adult's children associated with significant others of one of their custodial parents is greatly underestimated.

* I do not think it is bad to adopt policies that discourage people who are economically marginal and have committed many crimes to refrain from having children or to encourage them to have fewer children, while encouraging people who are economically successful to have more children.

* I recognize both the harms and benefits associate with "political correctness". The "snowflake" stereotype of liberals doesn't come from nowhere, even though it is often unfair and hypocritical.

* While I agree that animal cruelty is concerning, in particular, because it is often a prelude to interpersonal violence, I do not agree that vegetarianism is morally superior, I do not have a problem with products made with dead animals (e.g. fur coats), and I do not agree that we should refrain from using animals in medical and cosmetic testing (although this should not be done wantonly and unnecessarily). I do not have a moral problem with consuming animals such as pigs, dogs, cows and horses as food.

* I think that liberals not infrequently go overboard in their efforts to discourage violence against and sexual abuse of women to a point of denying women agency and sexual freedom to which they are legitimately entitled, and of trying to appropriate the full fledges horror of rape to more ambiguous and less severe conduct with some similarities to it (e.g. equating persistent requests for sex from a romantic partner, or consent to sex while moderately inebriated, with forcible rape). 

* I am skeptical of the progressive/liberal tendency to equate all prostitution with human trafficking and slavery.

* I am skeptical that criminalizing marital rape in cases of genuine intact marriages (as opposed to edge cases like involuntary child marriages of girls are pressured into by family, mail order brides who are denied opportunities to exit the relationship by divorce, and forced sex when couples are separated and in the process of divorcing) provides much benefit that other violent crimes for which there is not marital immunity aren't sufficient to address, while I am concerned that the risk of such charges being brought in inappropriate cases may become quite real at some point in the future (such charges are extremely rare now even though laws criminalizing marital rape are on  the books).

* I do not think that rent control makes economic sense.

* I think that land use is greatly over regulated and that a lot of the NIMBY concerns that motivate zoning laws are suspect and are often only a little removed from racism.

* I think that there is too much occupational licensing which is too rigorous and that this often does more harm than good (including in the legal profession), even though I recognize that sometimes occupational licensing is necessary to prevent people from being punished for practicing some other licensed occupation (e.g. veterinary medicine or medicine) without a license.

* I believe that there are plenty of conservatives with whom I have legitimate differences of opinion who aren't just plain bad or evil, although it seems that they are becoming troublingly scarce in Trump's Republican party.

06 June 2019

Why Did Greece's Economy Collapse?

One set of economists blame the Greek Great Depression from 2008-2016 on declining demand for Greece's exports and bad fiscal policy. Productivity then fell because product capacity sat idle. They argue that reducing government spending and taxing labor more heavily relative to income from property would have helped considerably. I am mildly skeptical but can evaluate the claims very well because I don't have access to the body of the pay per view article.
The Greek economy experienced a boom until 2007, followed by a prolonged depression resulting in a 25 percent shortfall of GDP by 2016. Informed by a detailed analysis of macroeconomic patterns in Greece, we develop and estimate a rich dynamic general equilibrium model to assess quantitatively the sources of the boom and bust. 
Lower external demand for traded goods and contractionary fiscal policies account for the largest fraction of the Greek depression. A decline in total factor productivity, due primarily to lower factor utilization, substantially amplifies the depression. Given the significant adjustment of prices and wages observed throughout the cycle, a nominal devaluation would only have short-lived stabilizing effects. By contrast, shifting the burden of adjustment from taxes toward spending or from capital taxes toward other taxes would generate significant longer-term production and consumption gains.
Gabriel Chodorow-Reich, Loukas Karabarbounis, Rohan Kekre, "The Macroeconomics of the Greek Depression" NBER Working Paper No. 25900 (May 2019).

05 June 2019

Hearsay In Civil Cases

In my opinion, in non-criminal cases, the United States should follow the lead of the United Kingdom which repealed the hearsay rule in Section 1 of the Civil Evidence Act of 1995, which says:
Admissibility of hearsay evidence. 
(1) In civil proceedings evidence shall not be excluded on the ground that it is hearsay. 
(2) In this Act— 
(a)“hearsay” means a statement made otherwise than by a person while giving oral evidence in the proceedings which is tendered as evidence of the matters stated; and 
(b) references to hearsay include hearsay of whatever degree. 
(3)Nothing in this Act affects the admissibility of evidence admissible apart from this section. 
(4)The provisions of sections 2 to 6 (safeguards and supplementary provisions relating to hearsay evidence) do not apply in relation to hearsay evidence admissible apart from this section, notwithstanding that it may also be admissible by virtue of this section.
Sections 2 to 6 of the Act provide some minor procedural nuances to admitting hearsay and encourage judges to be skeptical of it when it is appropriate to do so. 

Affordable Housing Policy Principles

Affordable housing is a big, complex, multifaceted issue. Here are some of my observations and principles that go into addressing it.

Local Land Use Measures

The single most important factor is to remove impediments to market means of making affordable housing available

Do not let the best be the enemy of the good. Establish a baseline bare minimum that would work for people like soldiers or refugees or students or scouts at a jamboree or college, and allow anything that means those basic requirements even if it is cramped or not terribly nice on a permanent basis.

The single biggest impediment to that is local government land use regulation and urban planning. For example:

* Allow house owners to construct accessory dwellings and rent them to unrelated people (I use the term "house owner" to refer to people who own houses, as opposed to "home owners" who own houses in which they live).

* Allow house owners to rent rooms in houses to unrelated people.

* Allow multi-unit dwellings (e.g. duplexes, town houses and row houses, flats, condominiums, residential co-operatives, apartment buildings) to be constructed almost everywhere that is not open space, farm land, or in heavy industrial areas. Limit building height primarily based upon available residential fire response resources and structural limitations.

* Foster a healthy market in owned multifamily housing without succumbing to the woes to the time share markets. Make it easier to convert rented housing and single family homes to owned multi-family housing.

* Greatly reduce minimum square footage per occupant requirements in building codes to allow for tiny homes, micro-apartments, dormitory style housing, etc.

* Allow housing that does not have individual bathrooms and kitchens for every family so long as these resources are available collectively.

* Do not impose parking requirements in places where public transportation (in the public or private sector) is reasonably available, even if it currently isn't heavily used for both residential and commercial uses. If a commercial area is served by transit and has access to basic retail needs, don't require any parking and leave that to the marketplace. An apartment which is not within easy walking distance of a bus stop or intracity rail stop could have parking requirements waived if it has some retail options within walking distance and has a commitment to provide a shuttle to get residents to high frequency bus stops or intracity rail stops.

* Remove purely aesthetic building code requirements. In general, regulate building approaches and building form only when absolutely necessary for non-social, non-aesthetic reasons and allow variances where the concerns motivating requirements are mitigated in an alternative way. Allow prior variances to serve as precedents for future variances.

* Don't add unnecessary requirement that add long term costs without advancing health or safety.

* Remove building code prohibitions on manufactured housing (both fully manufactured and substantial component assembled) if safety and health concerns are addressed in an alternative manner.

* Do not unduly restrict short term rentals that do not include maid service (i.e. other than motel/hotel/air bnb situations). For example, have many and substantial areas where single occupancy hotels, weekly kitchenette suites, motels converted to residences are allowed, and Japanese style pod hotels).

* Allow public, non-profit, and private property owners (including churches, public buildings, schools, warehouses, theaters, retail establishments, etc.) to make their spaces available to shelter the homeless.

* Allow public, non-profit, and private property owners provide protection to housing arrangements that amount to camping (sleeping in tents for prolonged period of time, sleeping in a car, living in a cabin or storage unit or garage or shed without its own plumbing), if lenient requirements for water,  sewer and trash service needs are met at a collective level, and protect the security of those arrangements as much as possible from private and government intrusion.

* Do not adopt rent controls, or price controlled, means tested "affordable housing" designated units.

* Do not prohibit the construction of housing mixed with commercial uses.

* Disfavor private land use restrictions that emulate zoning laws but are even less flexible. In general, encourage HOA level activity that is as minimal as possible. Never require an HOA or special district where it isn't absolutely necessary. If a party wall or maintenance cost sharing agreement can do the job, do that instead. Small democracies function the most poorly.

* Reduce harm in evictions related to loss and destruction of personality, and by providing reasonable notice for longer term leases and in foreclosure on landlords.

* Use proportionate development impact fees and tap fees and utility set up fees to encourage infill development.

* Structure environmental laws to favor brown field development.

* Weaken the political NIMBY power of busy body residents and develop a sense of non-entitlement to regulate neighboring land uses.

* Provide means of insuring habitability that can benefit undocumented tenants.

* Create significant and multiple areas where sex offenders, people on probation and parole, half-way houses, group homes, foster homes and the like can be located without overwhelming any one area.

Community Level Measures 

Consider community level and tax based ways to promote affordable housing:

* Create a focal point for potentially homeless people to get information they need when they need it (e.g. in connection with evictions).

* Adopt tax and labor law rules that make including housing in a compensation package.

* Establish incentives in terms of how local governments collect revenue and how responsibility for financing government services is allocated between levels of government so that local governments do not have incentives to discourage the construction of housing or the construction of affordable housing. Colorado's Gallagher Amendment, sales tax financing of local government, and local property tax financing of public schools are all counter to these objectives.

* Maximize the amount of housing stock and especially affordable housing stock where it is feasible to live without owning a vehicle due to non-private automobile transportation offices and the nearby availability of retail and employment opportunities. This can be combination of bicycle and walking friendly landscapes, bus and intracity rail service, private shuttles and car pool arranging, taxis and Lyft and Uber, motor vehicle sharing (i.e. short term rental), scooter/bike rental, and delivery services.

* Establish prompt and affordable ways to landlords to repossess housing/camping leased to short term tenants when occupants/tenants default.

* Encourage mixed use development that reduces the amount of travel needed to obtain essentials.

* Make good educational options available without undue regard to residence location so that housing prices do not become gatekeepers for access to good schools.

* Address the serious problems of HOA managed communities by minimizing association level activity where possible.

* Encourage "outsourcing" and disaggregation of components of the package that comes in a house. For example, postal address drops, secure storage (like safe deposit boxes), storage units instead of a basement or garage, separately rented or owned parking or vehicle storage, rental spaces for group meals and cooking special meals and gatherings, low cost cafeteria stye and co-op style eating options, study spaces, micro-business office and workshop spaces, love hotels, bath houses, and neighborhood scale short term rental options when guests are in town in lieu of guest rooms.

* Welcome immigrants as a way of reinvigorating declining neighborhoods.

* Disfavor land use regulations that tend to discourage mixed income communities.

* Take advantage of municipal scale advantages for services like broadband internet access.

* Provide public spaces in addition to libraries and parks where people can just "be" without paying anyone any money during the day.

* Decriminalize private charity like offering food assistance.

* Facilitate access to financing for modest income home buyers.

* Reduce delays (and to a much lesser extent costs) associated with new housing construction.

* Improve the accuracy and detail of projections regarding market demand for housing, so developers build what is needed.

Individual Level Measures

* Make housing a right without regard to ability to pay. Make housing first the presumptive norm, and provide for other needs second.

* Eliminate waiting lists for housing assistance.

* Structure housing assistance programs and financing in a manner that encourages metropolitan area/regional cooperation, rather than competition and passing the buck.

* Provide much stronger support to foster kids aging out.

* Provide personalized, non-bureaucratic support for needs that lead to vagrancy like substance abuse issues, mental health issues, traumatic brain injury and developmental disability, medical problems, criminal records, lack of social skills, poor budgeting, and lack of employability. As much as possible this should be categorical rather than means tested. Much of this can be addressed via universal health care.

* Where public housing is built, don't over concentrate it, create defensible space and access for low income tenants, and anticipate the need for a suite of supportive programs and systems beyond the default levels since this population will likely need a helping hand to get back on its feet. Avoid long term tenancies in publicly owned housing, preferring housing assistance if necessary. 

* Create housing assistance eligibility rules that have incentives to keep families together rather than fracturing them apart.

* Decriminalize drugs so that harm reduction and treating it like a public health problem is possible, while removing the money and danger of black market activities.

* Decriminalize prostitution for similar reasons so that sex workers aren't exploited by pimps, customers and law enforcement, and otherwise subject to the woes of the criminal world.

* Create a right to a job where anyone who presented themselves can receive guaranteed employment by the day at minimum wage in whatever pursuit the program manager can identify that applicants are qualified to do, even if it is somewhat make work.

* Make available subsidized or guaranteed loans for start up costs like first month's rent and security deposits and down payments.

* Subsidize and support the ability of workers to relocate to places where there are more jobs or higher paying jobs for people with their skills. For example, transportation and moving costs, facilitating school transfers, helping people sell houses at fair prices, terminate leases without penalty and find subtenants or replacement tenants.

* Strengthen the right to substitute economically comparable tenants or borrowers.

* Don't so strongly favor ownership over renting that people who are economically better off renting are pressured to buy. Some people need job mobility, have insecure incomes, and have poor credit, that makes home ownership ill advised.

How Should We Protect Long Range Aircraft Without Air To Air Combat Capabilities?

A recent incident calls attention to a potential gap in U.S. capabilities, even as other capabilities of the U.S. military are grossly excessive to the need.
A P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft experienced an "unsafe" and "irresponsible" intercept by a Russian fighter jet over international waters on Tuesday, according to the U.S. Navy
The P-8A was intercepted by a Russian SU-35 "three times over the course of 175 minutes" over the Mediterranean Sea, the Navy's Sixth Fleet said in a statement. While "the first and third interactions were deemed safe" the second "was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-35 conducting a high-speed pass directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk." 
The P-8A crew reported traveling through wake turbulence caused by the Russian fighter flying in the path of the Navy aircraft. 
The Navy's statement said its aircraft was operating "consistent with international law and did not provoke this Russian activity." The intercept was estimated to have lasted 28 minutes.
According to a June 5, 2019 report from ABC News.

The U.S. military has many fairly long range aircraft with little air to air combat capabilities. The C-5 and C-17 transport planes, myriad kinds of tanker aircraft, the P-3 and P-8 naval patrol aircraft, the B-1, B-2, the B-52 bombers, the E-4B command post, the C-32A executive air lifter and the Navy’s E-6B command post, the C-2 Greyhound aircraft carrier delivery aircraft (if they are still in service), as well as a variety of small VIP transport planes.

There are also all sorts of long range commercial aircraft that could sometimes need protection from potentially hostile military or terrorist controlled aircraft.

But, none of the fighter aircraft outfitted for serious air to air combat duties, the F-15, the F-16, the F-18, the F-22 and the F-35, have particularly long ranges and all have very high hourly operational costs. So, for those aircraft to escort long range aircraft without much in the way of air to air combat capabilities, one must either add tanker aircraft to the aerial caravan to refuel the escorting fighter aircraft along the way (adding yet more cost per hour), or one must hand off duties from one or more fighters serving as escorts to the next, based from aircraft carriers or land based air force bases along the way, which may prove problematic if there aren't enough friendly bases available (not really a problem in the Mediterranean where this incident occurred, but potentially a problem elsewhere).

Now, their ranges aren't all that short. F-15 (1,221 miles), F-16 (2,002 miles), F-18 (1,466 miles), F-22 (1,839 miles), F-35A and F-35C (basic and carrier versions 1,380 miles), F-35B (STVL version 1,035 miles). 

But, fighter aircraft ranges are extrapolations based upon traveling at full cruising speed (very fast) times the number of hours it can remain aloft with a load of fuel. Also, the more heavily armed a fighter is, the shorter its range. Also, those ranges are cut in half if the fighter has to leave from and return to the same base be it an air force base on land, or an aircraft carrier.

Another problem is that long range aircraft typically fly more slowly for far more hours. 

An F-35 is going to have considerably fewer hours aloft that aircraft often thought of as long range, because its range is partially related to its 1200 mile per hour maximum speed. But, while a P-8A has a range of 1,380 miles, about the same as an F-35, a P-8A has a cruising speed of 509 miles per hour and a maximum speed of 564 miles per hour. So, it can stay aloft for four hours at a time if that fits its mission, while a typical fighter aircraft probably can't. Similarly, a C-17 has a cruising speed of 518 miles per hour, and a range with a normal cargo load of 2,785 miles, double the range of most available fighters, with a number of hours aloft relative to the fighter aircraft that is even greater.

But, an effective escort aircraft needs to stay close to the aircraft it is escorting at all times. Burst of speed could be useful for an escort aircraft, but ideally, it could cruise very efficiently at speeds similar to those of the aircraft it is escorting.

The most simple expedient is to mount external fuel tanks on fighters where air to ground bombs would otherwise be attached to expand their range at the cost of the stealth that is a key feature of the F-22 and F-35. 

But, the question is whether there is a need in our fleet of jet fighters for a purpose built, long range air to air combat aircraft designed to escort other aircraft without those capabilities.

Closely related is the question of how important supersonic aircraft speed is in 21st century air to air combat. Historically, "dog fighting" as air to air combat is known, often involved one plane shooting another down at short range with slug throwers (i.e. big bullets) or very short range unguided missiles, neither of which could very meaningfully track of target. So, an ability to maneuver with agility and to be faster than opposing fighters was critical to getting in position to make a shot and to staying out of the cross-hairs of an opponent.

But, these days, air to air combat is designed on the assumption that fighters fire long range guided missiles to shoot down enemy aircraft. The paradigm is one shot, one kill, with the first fighter to see its opponent taking it down, ambush style, with a long range missile that destroys the enemy aircraft just moments before that aircraft knows that air to air combat is underway. 

As a result, many countries with limited budgets for their air forces have decided to mount state of the art avionics and long range guided missiles on aircraft that aren't supersonic and aren't particularly agile either, but the speed and agility drive up the cost of a fighter aircraft tremendously (and also require far more skilled pilots who regularly engage in very expensive training), without adding proportionate capabilities when the idea its to fire a long range missile at an enemy aircraft as soon as it shows up on the fighter's long range sensors.

Even in the old days, one of the preferred tactics of fighter aces was to emerge out of cloud cover into a strike position and immediately destroy enemy aircraft just moments before it knows that a dog fight is in progress.

Then again, that kind of tactic isn't very well suited to the kind of situation mentioned in the most recent incident (which has happened quite a few times with Russian and Chinese aircraft in the last few years). In those cases, the enemy aircraft are intentionally menacing the U.S. or allied aircraft with the purpose of sending a message without actually firing a shot in anger.

Ideally, a long range escort fighter could be effective in that kind of setting, warding off the enemy fighter that gets too close, without actually having to fire a shot in most cases. In this situation, stealth is counterproductive (potentially making external fuel tanks less problematic), but traditional dog fighting capabilities of maneuverability and speed might be valuable after all.

Another thought that comes to mind is how drones could be used to address this need. Drones should generally be able to secure greater range with otherwise comparable capabilities since they don't have to carry a pilot and related life support equipment. A drone in an escort situation can have  some level of direction from the escorted aircraft. Drones can more easily use suicidal tactics without the accompanying loss of life if necessary (e.g. ramming an enemy aircraft rather than firing upon it). And, one can also imagine a much shorter range drone or squadron of drones that rides piggy back on the escorted aircraft until called to duty for a short engagement when actually needed, before returning to a mounted position if the engagement ends successfully.

Yet another option would be to fit these long range aircraft that aren't designed for air to air combat with upgraded avionics and long term missiles so that they can defend themselves, perhaps not with the agility of a purpose built fighter, but sufficiently to make them more than sitting ducks when engaging with enemy fighter aircraft. If they had this capability, enemy fighter aircraft might afford these long distance planes more respect.

It is likely that one of these general approaches is much better than the others in the situations they would be trying to address on some of the key metrics for evaluating the options. But, determining that in an unbiased fashion would as a practical matter be very difficult when internal defense department and Congressional politics are in play.

Then again, maybe too much investment in air to air combat capabilities doesn't make sense. This is a very expensive capability for something that has actually happened only twice, in incidents involving the U.S. mlitary, in the last twenty years. Maybe our military should devote more resources to frequently needed capabilities and less to capabilities like air to air combat, blue sea naval warfare, and amphibious assaults, that almost never actually happen.