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The Guardian Examines the US Empire in the 21st Century

From The Guardian — The long read: The United States likes to think of itself as a republic, but it holds territories all over the world – the map you always see doesn’t tell the whole story .

The long read

How the US has hidden its empire

The United States likes to think of itself as a republic, but it holds territories all over the world – the map you always see doesn’t tell the whole story. By Daniel Immerwahr

Fri 15 Feb 2019 01.00 EST Last modified on Fri 15 Feb 2019 08.28 EST

There aren’t many historical episodes more firmly lodged in the United States’s national memory than the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is one of only a few events that many people in the country can put a date to: 7 December 1941, the “date which will live in infamy,” as Franklin D Roosevelt put it. Hundreds of books have been written about it – the Library of Congress holds more than 350. And Hollywood has made movies, from the critically acclaimed From Here to Eternity, starring Burt Lancaster, to the critically derided Pearl Harbor, starring Ben Affleck.

But what those films don’t show is what happened next. Nine hours after Japan attacked the territory of Hawaii, another set of Japanese planes came into view over another US territory, the Philippines. As at Pearl Harbor, they dropped their bombs, hitting several air bases, to devastating effect.

The attack on Pearl Harbor was just that – an attack. Japan’s bombers struck, retreated and never returned. Not so in the Philippines. There, the initial air raids were followed by more raids, then by invasion and conquest. Sixteen million Filipinos – US nationals who saluted the stars and stripes and looked to FDR as their commander in chief – fell under a foreign power.

Contrary to popular memory, the event familiarly known as “Pearl Harbor” was in fact an all-out lightning strike on US and British holdings throughout the Pacific. On a single day, the Japanese attacked the US territories of Hawaii, the Philippines, Guam, Midway Island and Wake Island. They also attacked the British colonies of Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong, and they invaded Thailand.

At first, “Pearl Harbor” was not the way most people referred to the bombings. “Japs bomb Manila, Hawaii” was the headline in one New Mexico paper; “Japanese Planes Bomb Honolulu, Island of Guam” in another in South Carolina. Sumner Welles, FDR’s undersecretary of state, described the event as “an attack upon Hawaii and upon the Philippines”. Eleanor Roosevelt used a similar formulation in her radio address on the night of 7 December, when she spoke of Japan “bombing our citizens in Hawaii and the Philippines”.

That was how the first draft of FDR’s speech went, too: it presented the event as a “bombing in Hawaii and the Philippines”. Yet Roosevelt toyed with that draft all day, adding things in pencil, crossing other bits out. At some point he deleted the prominent references to the Philippines.

Why did Roosevelt demote the Philippines? We don’t know, but it’s not hard to guess. Roosevelt was trying to tell a clear story: Japan had attacked the US. But he faced a problem. Were Japan’s targets considered “the United States”? Legally, they were indisputably US territory. But would the public see them that way? What if Roosevelt’s audience didn’t care that Japan had attacked the Philippines or Guam? Polls taken slightly before the attack show that few in the continental US supported a military defense of those remote territories.

Roosevelt no doubt noted that the Philippines and Guam, although technically part of the US, seemed foreign to many. Hawaii, by contrast, was more plausibly “American”. Although it was a territory rather than a state, it was closer to North America and significantly whiter than the others.

Yet even when it came to Hawaii, Roosevelt felt a need to massage the point. So, on the morning of his speech, he made another edit. He changed it so that the Japanese squadrons had bombed not the “island of Oahu”, but the “American island of Oahu”. Damage there, Roosevelt continued, had been done to “American naval and military forces”, and “very many American lives” had been lost.

An American island, where American lives were lost – that was the point he was trying to make. If the Philippines was being rounded down to foreign, Hawaii was being rounded up to “American”.

One reporter in the Philippines described the scene in Manila as the crowds listened to Roosevelt’s speech on the radio. The president spoke of Hawaii and the many lives lost there. Yet he only mentioned the Philippines, the reporter noted, “very much in passing”. Roosevelt made the war “seem to be something close to Washington and far from Manila”.

This was not how it looked from the Philippines, where air-raid sirens continued to wail. “To Manilans the war was here, now, happening to us,” the reporter wrote. “And we have no air-raid shelters.”

Hawaii, the Philippines, Guam – it wasn’t easy to know how to think about such places, or even what to call them. At the turn of the 20th century, when many were acquired (Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Guam, American Samoa, Hawaii, Wake), their status was clear. They were, as Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson unabashedly called them, colonies.

That spirit of forthright imperialism didn’t last. Within a decade or two, after passions had cooled, the c-word became taboo. “The word colony must not be used to express the relationship which exists between our government and its dependent peoples,” an official admonished in 1914. Better to stick with a gentler term, used for them all: territories.

Yet a striking feature of the overseas territories was how rarely they were even discussed. The maps of the country that most people had in their heads didn’t include places such as the Philippines. Those mental maps imagined the US to be contiguous: a union of states bounded by the Atlantic, the Pacific, Mexico and Canada.

That is how most people envision the US today, possibly with the addition of Alaska and Hawaii. The political scientist Benedict Anderson called it the “logo map”, meaning that if the country had a logo, this shape would be it:

The US ‘logo map’

The problem with the logo map, however, is that it isn’t right. Its shape does not match the country’s legal borders. Most obviously, the logo map excludes Hawaii and Alaska, which became states in 1959 and now appear on virtually all published maps of the country. But it is also missing Puerto Rico, which, although not a state, has been part of the country since 1899. When have you ever seen a map of the US that had Puerto Rico on it? Or American Samoa, Guam, the US Virgin Islands, the Northern Marianas or any of the other smaller islands that the US has annexed over the years?

In 1941, the year Japan attacked, a more accurate picture would have been this:

The ‘Greater United States’ map
A map of the ‘Greater United States’ as it was in 1941

What this map shows is the country’s full territorial extent: the “Greater United States”, as some at the turn of the 20th century called it. In this view, the place normally referred to as the US – the logo map – forms only a part of the country. A large and privileged part, to be sure, yet still only a part. Residents of the territories often call it the “mainland”.

On this to-scale map, Alaska isn’t shrunken down to fit into a small inset, as it is on most maps. It is the right size – ie, huge. The Philippines, too, looms large, and the Hawaiian island chain – the whole chain, not just the eight main islands shown on most maps – if superimposed on the mainland would stretch almost from Florida to California.

This map also shows territory at the other end of the size scale. In the century before 1940, the US claimed nearly 100 uninhabited islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific. Some claims were forgotten in time – Washington could be surprisingly lax about keeping tabs. The 22 islands included here are the ones that appeared in official tallies (the census or other governmental reports) in the 1940s. I have represented them as clusters of dots in the bottom left and right corners, although they are so small that they would be invisible if they were drawn to scale.

The logo map is not only misleading because it excludes large colonies and pinprick islands alike. It also suggests that the US is a politically uniform space: a union, voluntarily entered into, of states standing on equal footing with one another. But that is not true, and it has never been true. From its founding until the present day, the US has contained a union of American states, as its name suggests. But it has also contained another part: not a union, not states and (for most of its history) not wholly in the Americas – its territories.

What is more, a lot of people have lived in that other part. According to the census count for the inhabited territories in 1940, the year before Pearl Harbor, nearly 19 million people lived in the colonies, the great bulk of them in the Philippines. That meant slightly more than one in eight of the people in the US lived outside of the states. For perspective, consider that only about one in 12 was African American. If you lived in the US on the eve of the second world war, in other words, you were more likely to be colonised than black.

My point here is not to weigh forms of oppression against one another. In fact, the histories of African Americans and colonised peoples are tightly connected (and sometimes overlapping, as for the African-Caribbeans in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands). The racism that had pervaded the country since slavery also engulfed the territories. Like African Americans, colonial subjects were denied the vote, deprived of the rights of full citizens, called racial epithets, subjected to dangerous medical experiments and used as sacrificial pawns in war. They, too, had to make their way in a country where some lives mattered and others did not.

What getting the Greater United States in view reveals is that race has been even more central to US history than is usually supposed. It hasn’t just been about black and white, but about Filipino, Hawaiian, Samoan and Chamoru (from Guam), too, among other identities. Race has not only shaped lives, but also the country itself – where the borders went, who has counted as “American”. Once you look beyond the logo map, you see a whole new set of struggles over what it means to inhabit the US.

Looking beyond the logo map, however, could be hard for mainlanders. The national maps they used rarely showed the territories. Even the world atlases were confusing. During the second world war, Rand McNally’s Ready Reference Atlas of the World – like many other atlases at the time – listed Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico and the Philippines as “foreign”.

A class of seventh-grade girls at the Western Michigan College Training School in Kalamazoo scratched their heads over this. They had been trying to follow the war on their maps. How, they wondered, could the attack on Pearl Harbor have been an attack on the US if Hawaii was foreign? They wrote to Rand McNally to inquire.

“Although Hawaii belongs to the United States, it is not an integral part of this country,” the publisher replied. “It is foreign to our continental shores, and therefore cannot logically be shown in the United States proper.”

The girls were not satisfied. Hawaii is not an integral part of this country? “We believe this statement is not true,” they wrote. It is “an alibi instead of an explanation”. Further, they continued, “we feel that the Rand McNally atlas is misleading and a good cause for the people of outlying possessions to be embarrassed and disturbed”. The girls forwarded the correspondence to the Department of the Interior and asked for adjudication. Of course, the seventh-graders were right. As an official clarified, Hawaii was, indeed, part of the US.

Yet the government could be just as misleading as Rand McNally on this score. Consider the census: according to the constitution, census takers were required to count only the states, but they had always counted the territories, too. Or, at least, they had counted the continental territories. The overseas territories were handled differently. Their populations were noted, but they were otherwise excluded from demographic calculations. Basic facts about how long people lived, how many children they had, what races they were – these were given for the mainland alone.

The maps and census reports that mainlanders saw presented them with a selectively cropped portrait of their country. The result was profound confusion. “Most people in this country, including educated people, know little or nothing about our overseas possessions,” concluded a governmental report written during the second world war. “As a matter of fact, a lot of people do not know that we have overseas possessions. They are convinced that only ‘foreigners’, such as the British, have an ‘empire’. Americans are sometimes amazed to hear that we, too, have an ‘empire’.”

The proposition that the US is an empire is less controversial today. The case can be made in a number of ways. The dispossession of Native Americans and relegation of many to reservations was pretty transparently imperialist. Then, in the 1840s, the US fought a war with Mexico and seized a third of it. Fifty years later, it fought a war with Spain and claimed the bulk of Spain’s overseas territories.

Empire isn’t just landgrabs, though. What do you call the subordination of African Americans? Starting in the interwar period, the celebrated US intellectual WEB Du Bois argued that black people in the US looked more like colonised subjects than like citizens. Many other black thinkers, including Malcolm X and the leaders of the Black Panthers, have agreed.

Or what about the spread of US economic power abroad? The US might not have physically conquered western Europe after the second world war, but that didn’t stop the French from complaining of “coca-colonisation”. Critics there felt swamped by US commerce. Today, with the world’s business denominated in dollars, and McDonald’s in more than 100 countries, you can see they might have had a point.

Flags on top of the fortress in Old San Juan in Puerto Rico.
Flags on top of the fortress in Old San Juan in Puerto Rico. Photograph: Anton Gorbov/Alamy

Then there are the military interventions. The years since the second world war have brought the US military to country after country. The big wars are well-known: Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan. But there has also been a constant stream of smaller engagements. Since 1945, US armed forces have been deployed abroad for conflicts or potential conflicts 211 times in 67 countries. Call it peacekeeping if you want, or call it imperialism. But clearly this is not a country that has kept its hands to itself.

Yet among all the talk of empire, one thing that often slips from view is actual territory. Yes, many would agree that the US is or has been an empire, for all the reasons above. But how much can most people say about the colonies themselves? Not, I would wager, very much.

It is not as if the information isn’t out there. Scholars, many working from the sites of empire themselves, have assiduously researched this topic for decades. The problem is that their works have been sidelined – filed, so to speak, on the wrong shelves. They are there, but as long as we have the logo map in our heads, they will seem irrelevant. They will seem like books about foreign countries. The confusion and shoulder-shrugging indifference that mainlanders displayed at the time of Pearl Harbor hasn’t changed much at all.

I will confess to having made this conceptual filing error myself. Although I studied US foreign relations as a doctoral student and read countless books about “American empire” – the wars, the coups, the meddling in foreign affairs – nobody ever expected me to know even the most elementary facts about the territories. They just didn’t feel important.

It wasn’t until I travelled to Manila, researching something else entirely, that it clicked. To get to the archives, I would travel by “jeepney”, a transit system originally based on repurposed US army jeeps. I boarded in a section of Metro Manila where the streets are named after US colleges (Yale, Columbia, Stanford, Notre Dame), states and cities (Chicago, Detroit, New York, Brooklyn, Denver), and presidents (Jefferson, Van Buren, Roosevelt, Eisenhower). When I would arrive at my destination, the Ateneo de Manila University, one of the country’s most prestigious schools, I would hear students speaking what sounded to my Pennsylvanian ears to be virtually unaccented English. Empire might be hard to make out from the mainland, but from the sites of colonial rule themselves, it is impossible to miss.

The Philippines is not a US territory any more; it got its independence after the second world war. Other territories, although they were not granted independence, received new statuses. Puerto Rico became a “commonwealth”, which ostensibly replaced a coercive relationship with a consenting one. Hawaii and Alaska, after some delay, became states, overcoming decades of racist determination to keep them out of the union.

Yet today, the US continues to hold overseas territory. Besides Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and a handful of minor outlying islands, the US maintains roughly 800 overseas military bases around the world.

None of this, however – not the large colonies, small islands, or military bases – has made much of a dent on the mainland mind. One of the truly distinctive features of the US’s empire is how persistently ignored it has been. This is, it is worth emphasising, unique. The British weren’t confused as to whether there was a British empire. They had a holiday, Empire Day, to celebrate it. France didn’t forget that Algeria was French. It is only the US that has suffered from chronic confusion about its own borders.

The reason is not hard to guess. The country perceives itself to be a republic, not an empire. It was born in an anti-imperialist revolt and has fought empires ever since, from Hitler’s Thousand-Year Reich and the Japanese empire to the “evil empire” of the Soviet Union. It even fights empires in its dreams. Star Wars, a saga that started with a rebellion against the Galactic Empire, is one of the highest-grossing film franchises of all time.

This self-image of the US as a republic is consoling, but it is also costly. Most of the cost has been paid by those living in the colonies and around the military bases. The logo map has relegated them to the shadows, which are a dangerous place to live. At various times, the inhabitants of the US empire have been shot, shelled, starved, interned, dispossessed, tortured and experimented on. What they haven’t been, by and large, is seen.

The logo map carries a cost for mainlanders, too. It gives them a truncated view of their own history, one that excludes part of their country. It is an important part. The overseas parts of the US have triggered wars, brought forth inventions, raised up presidents and helped define what it means to be “American”. Only by including them in the picture do we see a full portrait of the country – not as it appears in its fantasies, but as it actually is.

How to Hide an Empire: A Short History of the Greater United States by Daniel Immerwahr will be published by Bodley Head on 28 February. Buy it at

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Posted in Fun

14 February, 2019 18:22

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“Heart Healthy” Means Healthy

From the Washington Post February 7th


Americans have healthier hearts. We have a healthier budget, too.

By Catherine Rampell, Columnist

February 7

Thanks to preventive medicine, older Americans have healthier hearts. Which also means, incidentally, that federal budgets are healthier, too.

At the turn of the millennium, health spending growth was spiraling out of control. Economists projected that the already ginormous health-care sector would soon gobble up monster portions of the federal budget and the entire economy. But something strange happened over the past decade and a half.

Rather than rocketing upward at ludicrous speed, health spending growth slowed — dramatically so.

That’s true whether we’re talking about public- or private-sector health spending; for Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance and out-of-pocket spending, annual outlays have been way lower than the doomsday forecasters anticipated. Curiously, too, the sharpest slowdown has occurred with Medicare.

In fact, about three-quarters of the health spending slowdown nationwide was due to slow-as-an-(almost)-trickle growth in spending on the elderly. From 1992 to 2004, per-capita spending among Medicare beneficiaries grew by 3.8 percent each year, adjusted for economy-wide inflation; since 2005, the rate has been a mere 1.1 percent, according to a new Health Affairs study.

In plain English, that means total spending per elderly person hasn’t fallen, per se, but we’re spending thousands of dollars less today than was projected to be the case back in the early 2000s.

(Catherine Rampell/The Washington Post)

So who gets credit?

Some have attributed the spending slowdown to lousy economic conditions, although in retrospect the timing isn’t exactly right. The deceleration appears to have begun before the Great Recession, and it continued long after it ended. What’s more, Medicare spending should be relatively shielded from the business cycle, at least relative to the private sector.

Some have credited structural changes to the health-care system, including some of Obamacare’s cost-control measures. Maybe bundled payments and accountable care organizations are responsible — though studies so far suggest their effects have been modest compared with the magnitude of the overall changes in health spending trends. What’s more, the slowdown pre-dates Obamacare.

That new study suggests a different cause: Americans taking better care of their hearts.

The study, from a team of researchers led by Harvard economics professor David M. Cutler, focuses specifically on medical spending for the elderly. The authors began by disaggregating spending into categories, based on the condition a patient was being treated for — cancer, dementia and so on.

They noticed something striking. The categories with far and away the biggest slowdown in spending were related to heart health. Spending on cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases (heart attack, cardiac arrest, stroke, etc.) declined by $827 per person, relative to earlier trends. Spending on a related category called cardiovascular risk factors (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes) also fell $802 per person below the trend line.

(Catherine Rampell/The Washington Post)

Altogether, the researchers calculated that more than half of the elderly spending slowdown was because of slower spending on cardiovascular diseases and conditions. In dollar terms, this means the slowdown in cardiovascular spending growth effectively saved the Medicare program about $34 billion in 2012 (the most recent year of data available).

You can see similar results in other health stats. Elderly death rates for cardiovascular diseases, for instance, have plummeted, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

(Catherine Rampell/The Washington Post)

These are significant findings, with major policy implications.

The conventional wisdom among health policy experts has long been that preventive medicine does not save money. It has other virtues — including, well, making people healthier. That’s quite a good thing! But study after study has found that in dollar terms, at least, investing more in preventive care doesn’t pay off.

This new paper suggests that at least when it comes to heart health, that’s not the case.

Lower-than-expected cardiovascular spending appears to be primarily due to successful use of preventive measures, the authors find. Greater use of statins, anti-hypertensives, diabetes medications and aspirin has helped prevent lots of expensive health events and contributed to outright declines in hospital admissions for heart disease and stroke.

“We think that half of the reduction in cardiovascular cost growth is a result of more people taking medications and taking them more regularly,” Cutler said.

Why are people taking their meds more regularly? The authors don’t know for sure, but there are a few possibilities. There’s more awareness of the need for treatment, for one. But also, a bunch of existing drugs went off patent and got cheaper. And in 2006, we got Medicare Part D, which reduced out-of-pocket prescription costs for many older people and probably led to more compliance.

Whether policymakers can duplicate these results for other health conditions and preventive therapies remains to be seen. But as the country debates the fiscal and moral merits of expanding health coverage, these latest findings are useful — and heartening? — data points.

Posted in Health

Another good one to toast. . .

From the Washington Post 

When you make your list of heroes, save a spot for Ernest Fitzgerald: smart, fearless, witty. Makes James Comey (whom I like) look like sort of a doofus. He also gets bonus points for continuing to work to the end of his career, in spite of the leaders’ attempts to ostracize him.


A. Ernest Fitzgerald, Pentagon whistleblower fired by Nixon, dies at 92


A. Ernest Fitzgerald was a senior financial management specialist in the Air Force and one of the Pentagon’s most prominent whistleblowers. (U.S. Air Force)

By Harrison Smith

February 7 at 7:10 PM

A. Ernest Fitzgerald, a Pentagon official tasked with analyzing project expenses, was summoned to Capitol Hill in 1968 to discuss a new fleet of Lockheed C-5A transport planes before the Joint Economic Committee.

He had been instructed to play dumb about the cost.

He did not.

Under oath, he said the C-5A was $2 billion over budget. In testifying, Mr. Fitzgerald later said, he was merely “committing truth.”

The revelation about the vast cost overruns made national headlines, stunning members of Congress as well as Mr. Fitzgerald’s superiors. Back at the Pentagon, he was met with a blunt question from his secretary: “Have you been fired yet?”

Mr. Fitzgerald lasted another two years in his position before President Richard M. Nixon ordered his dismissal. He went on to sue Nixon, an action that resulted in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case on presidential immunity and helped make him “America’s best-known whistleblower,” The Washington Post wrote in 1987.

Through his more than 50 subsequent appearances on Capitol Hill, said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), Mr. Fitzgerald all but single-handedly “created the concept of Pentagon waste and fraud. People didn’t even think about it. And now they very much understand it is happening,” even as policymakers have failed “to listen to his message,” she said.

Mr. Fitzgerald, alternately dubbed “the patron saint of government whistleblowers” and “the most hated man in the Air Force,” was 92 when he died Jan. 31, exactly 46 years after Nixon’s Oval Office taping system recorded the president discussing Mr. Fitzgerald’s ouster.

“This guy that was fired,” he told aide Charles W. Colson, “I’d marked it in the news summary. That’s how that happened. I said get rid of that son of a bitch.”

“The point was not that he was complaining about the overruns,” Nixon said in a separate conversation that day, “but that he was doing it in public. . . . And not, and frankly, not taking orders.”

The transcripts were made public as part of Mr. Fitzgerald’s effort to win $3.5 million in damages from Nixon and three of his aides — the final chapter in a legal saga that began soon after his C-5A testimony, when the Air Force inundated him with busy work, investigated his private life and launched a smear campaign against him, according to court documents.

In 1970, he was laid off from his position as a senior financial management specialist; he was told that it was part of a general staff reduction. Mr. Fitzgerald fought the dismissal with a lawsuit, and in 1973 the Civil Service Commission took his side, ordering his reinstatement with around $80,000 in back pay.

But while his job title was the same, the work was not.

“I’m completely excluded from the big weapons systems jobs,” Mr. Fitzgerald told The Post. “They keep me out of Boeing’s and Lockheed’s hair and all the big ones.” He was instead ordered to examine maintenance depots. As his daughter Nancy Fitzgerald-Greene said in an interview, the Air Force “put him in charge of inspecting bowling alleys in Thailand.”

In 1974, Mr. Fitzgerald sued again, this time targeting Nixon, in an action that went to the Supreme Court. In 1982, the justices ruled 5 to 4 that the president was “entitled to absolute immunity,” with Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. explaining that “because of the singular importance of the president’s duties, diversion of his energies by concern with private lawsuits would raise unique risks to the effective functioning of government.”

By then, however, Mr. Fitzgerald had won a victory of sorts: One year earlier, Nixon had secretly paid him $144,000 to keep the case from going to trial. Previously, Newsweek reported, the former president had offered to contact President Jimmy Carter to see whether he might be able to arrange Mr. Fitzgerald’s appointment to director of the Office of Management and Budget.

The Pentagon, however, remained Mr. Fitzgerald’s home for decades. Poring over contracts and financial records, he testified dozens of times before Congress and forged close relationships with leaders of both parties. In a tribute to Mr. Fitzgerald given Wednesday on the Senate floor, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) called him “a tenacious watchdog . . . a hero for taxpayers and a warrior against waste.” Years earlier, Proxmire told People magazine that Mr. Fitzgerald was “one of the very few people in government who has made a difference.”

In the early 1980s, as part of his battle against Pentagon waste and inefficiency, Mr. Fitzgerald developed the idea for the Project on Military Procurement, which evolved into POGO. The organization was designed to build on the findings of Pentagon insiders such as Mr. Fitzgerald, who uncovered inflated costs as well as evidence of falsified weapons tests, in which defense contractors were “cutting corners to get things out into the field,” Brian said.

Mr. Fitzgerald, who retired in 2006, also devised a novel strategy for explaining the extent of wasteful spending in the military, which he once estimated at $30 billion each year.

“An average person cannot relate to the overpricing of an airplane like the F-15 fighter or B-1 bomber or an M-1 tank, so first, we have to explain how the Pentagon’s overpricing scam works in terms of things they are familiar with, like toilet seats, hammers, screws, ashtrays, etc.,” he said, according to a remembrance by fellow military analyst Franklin C. “Chuck” Spinney. “Then, step 2 is simply to explain how an F-15 or B-1 bomber or M-1 is simply a bundle of overpriced spare parts flying in close formation.”

Among Mr. Fitzgerald’s findings: A plastic stool-leg cap that cost 34 cents, but was billed at $916.55; labor for a Boeing cruise missile, estimated at $14 an hour but paid at $114; and a six-inch airplane maintenance tool that, inexplicably, cost $11,492.

Separately, railing against unnecessary spending on large-scale defense projects, he cited a maxim he dubbed Fitzgerald’s First Law: “There are only two phases of a program. The first is, ‘It’s too early to tell.’ The second: ‘It’s too late to stop.’ ”

[A. Ernest Fitzgerald knows the price of exposing cost overruns]

The older of two children, Arthur Ernest Fitzgerald was born in Birmingham, Ala., on July 31, 1926. His father was a patternmaker, and his mother ran a small farm.

Mr. Fitzgerald served in the Navy during World War II and received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama in 1951. He worked in the aerospace industry and formed a consulting firm before joining the Air Force as a civilian in 1965.

By then he had developed a specialty, cost-cutting, that helped him earn a nomination for the Defense Department’s Distinguished Civilian Service Award. But the praise stopped flowing after the C-5A hearings, and during the years he was out of work, he and his family “went to the rice and beans diet a lot,” Fitzgerald-Greene said.

Mr. Fitzgerald died at an assisted-living center in Falls Church, Va., she said. The cause was not immediately known. His wife of more than 50 years, the former Nell Burroughs, died in 2012. In addition to Fitzgerald-Greene, of Falls Church, survivors include two other children, Susan Fitzgerald of Vienna, Va., and John P. Fitzgerald of Marlow, Ala.; and four grandchildren.

The precise cause of death was not immediately known, his daughter said.

While Mr. Fitzgerald had some success in renegotiating Air Force contracts and eliminating inefficiencies, he said his efforts to spur broader changes were repeatedly blocked. He recalled Air Force Gen. John “Zeke” Zoeckler once telling him, “inefficiency is national policy.”

“Some of the Pentagon scams we once deplored are viewed as virtues,” Mr. Fitzgerald said in 1996, in a mournful acceptance speech for the Paul H. Douglas Ethics in Government Award. “The unit costs of defense are scandalously high, and going up. Porking-up contracts for political purposes, always present, but formerly stoutly denied, is now a good thing. It makes good jobs.”

Posted in Governance

Killed Off Half the Oysters in 20 Years

From the Bay Journal (you know, the one that EPA tried to de-fund — yeah, that Bay Journal)

[This story is particularly poignant for me, given the recent death of Kincey Potter, my wife and a strong and effective advocate for Bay restoration programs for the last 15 years. Kincey took up the conservation banner, after a long and effective career in Information Technology, because she was affronted and appalled “by the deterioration of the Chesapeake Bay in my lifetime.” But at the end she was also convinced that continued, committed implementation of the “new” Chesapeake Bay Program would lead to improvements in the Bay’s condition,]

Bay Journal

Maryland oyster population down by half since 1999, study finds

First-ever Bay stock assessment sees overfishing in more than half of Chesapeake

By Timothy B. Wheeler on November 21, 2018

Watermen overharvested oysters last winter in a little more than half of Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, according to the state’s first-ever stock assessment of the commercially and ecologically valuable shellfish. If those harvest rates continue, the assessment warned, the bivalve population in those areas could eventually be wiped out.

The assessment’s estimate of Maryland’s total oyster population in 2018 is less than 10 percent of what was harvested annually before 1900, a former federal fisheries scientist pointed out. (Dave Harp)

The 359-page assessment report, released Tuesday, estimated that Maryland’s overall population of adult oysters this year is half what it was 18 years ago.
The assessment, prepared by the Department of Natural Resources in consultation with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, sets the stage for a potentially fractious debate in coming months over the state’s management of the keystone Bay species, which is also a pillar of Maryland’s seafood industry.

Watermen who were briefed on the assessment Monday night at the DNR’s Oyster Advisory Commission reacted skeptically to its findings. But Alison Prost, Maryland executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, issued a statement afterward saying it “confirmed some of our greatest fears about the Bay’s oyster population. The state needs to develop a fishery management plan that protects existing and restored oyster reefs to significantly increase the overall oyster population.”

Mandated in 2017 by the General Assembly, the stock assessment drew on DNR surveys and catch data from 1999 through the wild oyster harvest season that ended last spring. DNR and UMCES scientists used mathematical models to estimate oyster abundance, habitat availability, harvest rates and natural mortality from environmental conditions such as harsh weather and disease.

The study estimated that Maryland’s oyster population plummeted from about 600 million in 1999 to around 200 million by 2002, a period that saw the Bay’s bivalves ravaged by an outbreak of the oyster diseases MSX and Dermo. The harvest hit an all-time low of 19,000 bushels in 2004.

The diseases abated after that, and the study estimates that the state’s oyster stock rebounded to more than 450 million by 2014, with harvests also rising that year to more than 400,000 bushels. Since then, natural reproduction has been lackluster, and the assessment estimated that the population has declined again to an estimated 300 million this year. Last season’s harvest slipped to 180,000 bushels.

The study didn’t assess whether the state’s oyster population as a whole was overharvested, but rather weighed the bivalves’ status in each of 36 different zones spanning Maryland’s portion of the Bay and its tributaries.

“What’s happening with oysters in different parts of the Bay is different,” explained Mike Wilberg, an associate professor at UMCES’ Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, who worked with DNR scientists to conduct the stock assessment.

Oysters tend to be less abundant in the Upper Bay and its tributaries, such as the Chester River, where lower salinity in the water tends to impede reproduction. Reproduction and abundance are better in saltier water farther south in places like Tangier Sound and the Maryland tributaries of the Potomac River, but those also happen to be the areas more affected by diseases.

For each area of the Bay, the report identified a threshold harvest rate that, if regularly exceeded, it predicted would lead to eventual population declines. It also set a target for each area that if the percentage of oysters harvested regularly stayed at or below that level, the catch would be maximized over time while the population would remain stable or even increase.

In some areas, including all of the Western Shore tributaries and Eastern Bay, the assessment found that almost any level of harvest would deplete the stock because abundance was so low.

The assessment found that fishing pressure exceeded sustainable levels, given natural mortality and reproduction, in 19 of the 36 zones into which the state’s portion of the Bay had been divided. Overfishing occurred last season in most of the Tangier Sound area, in Eastern Bay, in the Patuxent River and in the Potomac River tributaries, it said.

In 14 areas, though — including most of the Choptank River and the Bay mainstem — fishing pressure last season was at or below the target for maximizing harvest and maintaining oyster abundance. And in three areas — two in southern Tangier Sound and one in the Honga River — the harvest rate was below the ceiling for sustainability but above the target for building or maintaining the population.

Wilberg stressed that the assessment only looked at the status of the oyster population, not at how it should be managed. When the final report is submitted to the General Assembly by Dec. 1, DNR officials said it would include a list of management options, without making any recommendations.The assessment found harvest rates exceeded sustainable levels in 19 of 36 areas of the Bay and its tributaries, but below those thresholds in the other areas. (Dave Harp)

The assessment found harvest rates exceeded sustainable levels in 19 of 36 areas of the Bay and its tributaries, but below those thresholds in the other areas. (Dave Harp)

That report is certain to revive debate about how the state’s oyster fishery ought to be managed.

Maryland expanded its oyster sanctuary network in 2010 to cover 25 percent of state waters — a move that drew the ire of watermen. They complained that the new harvest-free zones took three-fourths of their best oystering areas. And they have pressed to get back into at least some of those areas.

In early 2017, with wild harvests on the decline, the DNR proposed to open some of the state’s oyster sanctuaries. But lawmakers blocked that move by requiring the department to conduct a stock assessment first and figure out a sustainable harvest rate.

Watermen on the DNR advisory commission found fault with the assessment’s methods and conclusions Monday night.

Robert T. Brown, president of the Maryland Watermen’s Association, questioned the report’s finding that the highest harvest rate that could be sustained anywhere in the Bay was 43 percent in Fishing Bay, with even lower sustainable harvest thresholds elsewhere. He said the reason so many areas seemed to be overfished was because watermen had been forced to work remaining areas more intensively after being forced out of the sanctuaries.

Ron Fithian, a Kent County commissioner and former waterman, put much of the blame for declines in oyster abundance on the state’s abandonment in 2006 of an annual program of replenishing oyster reefs with shells. The subsequent expansion of sanctuaries has made it worse, he argued.

“There’s no evidence that these sanctuaries have helped areas around it,” he said. There’s no evidence that anything we’ve done for the last eight or nine years has helped in any way, shape or form.”

Large-scale oyster restoration efforts launched in sanctuaries in Harris Creek, the Little Choptank River and Tred Avon River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore do appear to be succeeding, according to a recent report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Monitoring in 2017 found hatchery-spawned oysters that had been planted on restored reefs were surviving and growing, and that there was evidence of natural reproduction, with new young oysters appearing since the plantings.

The stock assessment factored the state’s extensive network of oyster sanctuaries into its estimation of bivalve abundance in each area around the Bay. But it said there wasn’t any way at this time to tell whether there was any spillover of reproduction from the oysters in those harvest-free zones that would allow for higher sustainable harvest rates in neighboring public fishery areas.

The stock assessment was reviewed by a trio of independent scientists. Paul Rago, a retired federal fisheries scientist who chaired the review, said the panel found the DNR-UMCES team assessed the state’s oyster population in a “scientifically credible way.”

The Bay has changed greatly since the heyday of its oyster fishery in the late 1800s, Rago pointed out. Much of the oyster reef habitat has been lost, water quality has declined and diseases have caused significant die-offs. The estimated total population of 300 million oysters in Maryland waters in 2018 is less than 10 percent of what was harvested each year before 1900, he noted.

While the Bay’s oyster population can benefit from reduced diseases, better reproduction and continuing efforts to clean up pollution, Rago said, rebuilding the stock will also require enhancement of reef habitat and control of fishing mortality.

With the assessment’s findings as a guide, Rago added “the big challenges are yet to come.” It won’t be easy, he said, to follow the science while balancing the competing interests of watermen, oyster farmers and those seeking to increase the oyster population because of its ecological benefits to the Bay. Oysters help to filter the Bay’s water, and their reefs provide habitat for fish, crabs and other marine creatures.

DNR officials said the stock assessment would be used to update the state’s fishery management plan for oysters. Chris Judy, chief of the DNR’s shellfish division, said that process would begin soon, after review of the assessment by lawmakers and public feedback. He said it would be “many months down the road” before the revision would be complete.

About Timothy B. Wheeler
Timothy B. Wheeler is associate editor and senior writer for the Bay Journal. He has more than two decades of experience covering the environment for The Baltimore Sun and other media outlets. Send Tim an e-mail.

Posted in Chesapeake Bay, Conservation, Resource Management

Cape May – Thanksgiving 2018 – Thank You, America

So this year the Potter/Paganos’ holiday party happened to take place in Cape May, New Jersey last weekend. Here’s brother Peter Potter’s capture of the Inn at Cape May, followed by National Public Radio’s crowd-sourced “Thank You America,” assembled from listener submissions by poet Kwame Alexander, 11/22/2018, which also mentions Cape May.


Thank You, America

The sun rising behind farm houses in the Midwest
The clear mountain rivers in Montana
I hope we have the wisdom to treasure all of it.

A glimmer of dawn
First flickers in Maine

For the mountains.
magnificent weathered beacons of topographical wonder.

Tengo gracias that I can speak my mind
y no aye consecuencia graves when I do so.

I won’t lie, I struggled with this question
With all the fighting, hate and violence
it has been difficult to remember to be thankful.
However, when I read stories of people who
stand up and speak out
for justice and truth
I become immensely grateful and proud of America.
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Freedom to whisper against kings
My grandmother who carried her green card
in the broken tattoos on her back

I am thankful that other people are still trying to come here.
I am thankful for the vastness of our borders and the beauty of our natural lands.

Sunshine streaming softly
while we sip our morning coffee.
But across the oceans our troops fight
ensuring that we keep our rights,
to give us a land of the free.
For the first responders
For hope

I am thankful for America’s history, warts and all.
Our past, full of light and dark,
Read the history
of heroes and villains
See our country for what it is.

Free Press and Free speech
to speak out against injustices in our country,

For family
For places to walk safely
places to paddle
arcades of trees
varied, inexpensive food
tools and workplaces
longtime friends who listen
tennis courts

Indoor plumbing,

to worship whoever we want,
to say whatever we want,
to go wherever we want.

for the public libraries.
They raise up voices whom others attempt to silence.

for diversity.
For differences
My son is transgender and I am grateful for those who treat HER with respect and kindness.

for Cape May; for parties on the Fourth of July; for anarchist coffee shops; for church-run thrift stores; hole-in-the-wall BBQ joints; Lake Michigan; Vinny’s Pizzeria in the 90s; beer delivery in a snow storm;

for second, third and fourth chances.
For forgiveness.
I am thankful that my hybrid existence, hinted by my brown skin and slanted eyes, can make sense in America.

For many spectacular parks in our nation–from the huge and awe-inspiring Grand Canyon to the tiny neighborhood park with the small playground and the pretty benches painted by local artists.

I am grateful that America can change, too.
for the millions who take to the streets,
challenge authority,
insist on change,
demand justice,
resist evil, tell their stories,

Wrought through division
Sustained by freedom’s hope
Seeking reunion
I am thankful for America, most of the time.

Thank you, America,
For the mom and pop shops and rest stops.
For the back roads and the beaten paths.
For the love that greets me when I come home.

For the dream to become,
the dream to make better or different,
the dream to inspire,
the dream of something on the other side
of whatever is facing us in the moment

For You❤

Tori Whitley-Berry and Jacob Conrad produced and edited the audio story.

Posted in Beaches, Close to Home