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PoliticsIAM William J. Perry, Former Secretary of Defense, and I think there is a deal to be made with North Korea - AMA!

May 9th 2017 by SecDef19 • 25 Questions • 60 Points

Our short bio: We’re Lisa Gartner and Zack Sampson, reporters at the Tampa Bay Times. We just published several stories about how children who steal cars have become one of the biggest crime problems in our Florida county. Police here made almost 500 arrests for grand theft auto in one year, more than just about anywhere in America, including Miami and Los Angeles. The kids were as young as 10. They were too small to ride all the rides at the amusement park. But they sped 100+ mph, the wrong way on bridges, and crashed a lot. Some died. The kids told us their reasoning was simple: to have fun. One boy we wrote about, just 13, was considered the most dangerous kid on the street. Cops thought he had an AK-47. He was barely 100 pounds.

Link to the story

/u/zsampson

/u/lisagartner

PROOF

EDIT: We're humans. We need to go to lunch. We will come back after we're done and look for more questions in about an hour! Thanks for checking in.

EDIT TWO: Alright everyone, thanks so much for tuning in. There were quite a few great questions, and we enjoyed discussing the stories. We're at nearly eight hours, which is about our limit. Please keep reading!

Q:

With irrational leaders in both the US and North Korea, why would you say this is still possible ? I expect that most negotiations assume sanity on both sides.

A:

So you guys are suing Trump for these acts against the environment, of which he's used executive orders to do so. Since you guys are merely suing, does this actually stop the executive order from being executed? Or is there only a fine? What are Trumps repercussions for you guys winning a lawsuit?


Q:

How did you get started in terms of marketing? I imagine once you get going that word of mouth referrals take care of new clients but how were you able to break into what I'm assuming is a very competitive field?

A:

I'm a property crimes prosecutor. Our motor vehicle theft detectives and I have noticed a weird new trend. When the cars are recovered, a noticeable amount have had the rear view mirror removed. Theories range from the thieves are keeping them as trophies to they think there's some sort of tracking device in the mirrors, like onstar. It's a newer trend so we think it's younger thieves. Notice anything like that with your subjects? Opinions?


Q:

North Korean leaders are ruthless and reckless but not crazy. Against all odds, they have stayed in power for many decades playing a very weak hand. Their main objective is to maintain the Kim dynasty, and we must negotiate with them with that key fact in mind.

A:

Our goal in filing the lawsuits is to get court orders reversing the illegal actions. For example, in our challenge to Trump’s order that purports to overturn Obama’s withdrawal of most of the Arctic and parts of the Atlantic Oceans from availability for offshore oil drilling, our goal is to get a court order declaring Trump’s action illegal and invalid, which would have the effect of confirming the protection of these ocean waters against oil drilling.


Q:

I started out by getting experience in the market as a contractor for other tutoring companies. People told their friends about me, and I started getting organic leads that way. Nowadays it's almost all word-of-mouth referrals, and I only need around 5 clients at a time to keep my schedule full.

Sometimes, when I release a new product like my GT practice books, I will put up flyers around the city to generate interest. For that particular product, most other companies charge 2-3x what I do, so I wanted to have a more obvious form of advertising.

A:

We've heard of this and were told it's because they think there's GPS in the onstar mirrors. Haven't heard that from kids themselves though.


Q:

There are a couple of reasons we haven't invaded NK and shut it down. One, as mentioned by other posters, is China. China prefers a buffer state between itself and the RoK because the RoK is a US ally and has 30,000 US soldiers stationed in it. See the Korean War, where China decided it was worth fighting the US to keep it from establishing a state on Chinese borders.

Another is that North Korea can do a lot of damage, even without nuclear weapons. As an example, North Korea has tons of artillery trained on Seoul: it would kill lots of people and do irreparable harm before it's defeat. South Korea would, at a minimum, come out of any potential Second Korean War limping and bruised. With nuclear weapons the cost becomes, of course, far higher.

A:

Were Obama's orders illegal? I don't see how undoing one executive order via means of a different order made later is illegal.


Q:

Awesome answer, thanks!

A:

You float in the story a couple of potential explanations (population density, public transportation issues), do either of you have any other pet theories to explain the car theft issue in Pinellas County?


Q:

This answer summarizes very well the complicated reasons why we want to avoid invasion of North Korea if at all possible.

A:

The law in question, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), gives the president authority to withdraw areas from availability for offshore drilling. That’s what Obama did when he protected most of the Arctic and part of the Atlantic. It was plainly legal for him to do so, and no one has challenged it. While OCSLA gives the president authority to withdraw areas from availability for oil drilling, it doesn’t give the president authority to reverse those withdrawals. That authority rests with Congress, and Trump’s effort to grab it for himself violated both OCSLA and the constitutional separation of powers. Which is why we sued.


Q:

No problem!

A:

We don't have any particular theories. We tried really hard in interviewing kids to find an origin or at least a time when this kicked off. But they described it in extremely plain terms. "It just happens," basically was the answer. We're planning to look further into this as we continue reporting out car theft. There's something to be said for the West Florida laid-back atmosphere and unlocked cars. Multiple official-type sources told us they thought people feel safe here and thus are less vigilant in locking up their stuff. I'm not sure that's true, but it's certainly interesting to consider. We read in police reports about victims saying much the same to police -- I thought my neighborhood was safe; I was gone just a minute.

As to pets, Lisa has a wonderful dog named Landon.


Q:

How can we tell what's propaganda from North Korea and what's accurate?

A:

What exactly was illegal about his actions? If Obama had the authority to make those areas unavailable to drilling, doesn't the next President have the authority to reverse that decision?

I looked on your website for info about why it's illegal, but all that seems to say is "artic drilling is bad, mmkay".


Q:

Is there a logic behind $140/hr figure or is it fairly arbitrary? (Do you think you could charge much more without significant drop-off in clientele)?

A:

Is my truck really safer because it's a stick?


Q:

There is a lot of bluster coming from NK but our intelligence gives us a good gauge on the capabilities of their nukes and missiles. Understanding their self-interest gives us a calibration on understanding what is reality and what is hyperbole in their threats.

A:

Posting again: The law in question, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), gives the president authority to withdraw areas from availability for offshore drilling. That’s what Obama did when he protected most of the Arctic and part of the Atlantic. It was plainly legal for him to do so, and no one has challenged it. While OCSLA gives the president authority to withdraw areas from availability for oil drilling, it doesn’t give the president authority to reverse those withdrawals. That authority rests with Congress, and Trump’s effort to grab it for himself violated both OCSLA and the constitutional separation of powers. Which is why we sued.


Q:

I chose that figure based on undercutting with other tutoring companies charge. Most charge upwards of $180, I know some that charge $240.

I could probably raise it significantly if I targeted new students in the wealthiest neighborhoods, but I wouldn't want to double the rates for my clients I've had for the past years. I love working with my current kids, they basically feel like siblings at this point.

Another factor is that I aim for year-round clients. I work with my kids for test prep, education enrichment, and for a fun summer school. But for clients who are only doing a few weeks of test prep before their SAT/ISEE/SHSAT, etc. I can charge a higher rate since it's more temporary. But it would be quite a significant amount for somebody to pay $240/hr all year!

A:

Yes -- almost certainly. We saw a case where the would-be thieves couldn't drive stick. Others involved some stalled cars.


Q:

How would you react to an offensive attack on US soil by North Korea? A total war.

A:

Aren't there already pipes in the area where the Dakota pipeline is being proposed?

If so. Why is THIS pipeline so different/Bad?


Q:

Have you thought of doing a sliding scale for charging? I imagine for some clients $1000/hr is no more a burden than $100/hr.

A:

What was it like talking to the kids? Were they shy or boastful or somewhere in between? What kinds of questions did you ask them?


Q:

I think that is totally remote because NK is not suicidal. But if it were to happen the U.S. would respond with overwhelming force, bringing an end to the NK regime. NK knows that which is why it won’t happen.

A:

The Dakota Access pipeline would cross the Missouri River a half mile upstream of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. An oil spill would be catastrophic to the tribe and its members. The original pipeline path was supposed to cross the river just upstream of Bismarck, North Dakota, but it was moved to just upsteam of the reservation. That is an injustice, especially coming in the wake of centuries of injustice perpetrated against Native Americans. Finally, if we already have as many pipelines as you suggest, we certainly don’t need another one that will have to be paid for by many years of increased fossil fuel production. Instead, we need to move toward cleaner and smarter energy, for economic as well as environmental reasons.


Q:

It wouldn't be "fair" really to the clients on the high end. I try to look at it as what I charge for my time, not what they can afford for my time.

A:

It was strange to talk to the kids. I cover public safety/crime, but it's really atypical to speak to convicted people who are this young. I actually expected them to boast more, since this was seen as such a cool thing to do. But they generally undersold their history to us. They said they stole only a car or two, or didn't steal any at all, even when police records contradicted that. They said they never crashed (crashing is called "blowing it;" it's not cool). They didn't embellish their crimes, they diminished their history. And ultimately talking to them was like talking to pretty much any teenager. They were shy, they mumbled, they were slow to open up. They thought they could get one over on you. One of the most shocking moments was when a 15-year-old told me he'd never steal eyeglasses. I asked why, and he said "because people need the to see." They're smart kids, they're saavy, probably smarter than people give them credit for. But underneath it all they rarely had some profound reason for stealing a car. They spoke about it so plainly. It was just something to do.


Q:

I read your op-ed and it seems like you're advocating "More of the same... now with 100% more China!"

What sort of long-term deal do you think is possible now? Not just something to defuse the current crisis, but to mitigate future ones as well?

A:

Are you still litigating over Dakota Access? If you are, is that a prudent use of charitable assets given that the odds of prevailing are between slim and none?


Q:

My daughter is taking the SAT in the fall, and she's really nervous. Do you have any tips for SAT test prep?

A:

Did you talk to the parents? If, so what did they say?


Q:

The keys to a longterm solution are security assurances and recognition from the US. If those were real and credible, it would take away the need that North Korea sees to act aggressively with its neighbors and the US. However, conditions in both the US and North Korea make this hard to achieve politically.

A:

We are still litigating over the Dakota Access Pipeline. We may or may not win the case. But we don’t give up until the case is over, and the case isn’t over. Whether or not we succeed in stopping the pipeline, the case has been incredibly valuable. It’s galvanized unity and empowerment among Native American groups. Things will never be the same in the fight for Native American rights, thanks to the courage and commitment of the Standing Rock Sioux. It has been an honor for Earthjustice to represent them.


Q:

I can sympathize, I hated taking the SAT too.

The first thing you want to look at is if the ACT is a better fit. The ACT is more "common sense" based, and if she has scientific aptitude, it does also have a science section.

Regardless of which test she takes, it's important to break things up into manageable chunks. I like to split the sections up by question type. So for math, split the problems into Geometry, Quadratics, Simple Algebra, Number Theory, Trig, etc. Khan Academy has 8 college board approved practice tests and keys online, they're really great for this.

This part's important: Take a FULL LENGTH, TIMED practice test, and analyze which question types she gets wrong. There is almost always a pattern. For example, on reading, she might miss the "why do you think the author said _____" questions, but not the content questions. For math, she might miss the quadratics, but be excellent with trig.

Focus on the areas of need without neglecting the other sections. Once she's mastered a specific area of need, don't drop it completely. Just work in a few review problems into her future practice. So once she's confident doing geometry, move onto a Trig focus (but work in a few geometry practice questions with each practice session, along with the other questions she's already proficient in).

For the other sections, do the same thing. If she's always missing comma usage in Grammar, focus on those questions while still "maintaining" proficiency in the other questions.

For each practice session, try to do at least one set of each test section to keep it all fresh. Don't have overwhelming amounts of practice, I'd say 3x/week works well for an average kid.

Good luck!

A:

We did talk to parents. Most of them were frustrated. They said their children did not respect the courts, which made it harder to get them to respect anything at home. They also said their kids always started the same way -- falling in with a bad crowd -- before they began committing crime.


Q:

What are your thoughts on our moral obligation to free the people of North Korea? I know it's complicated; but shouldn't we feel obligated to do something about the oppression they are living under? It feels like no deal would accomplish that feat- short of Kim stepping down.

A:

Can you explain how the question of standing affects your litigation? Specifically with something like drilling in the arctic or mining on public lands, how does the question of standing get hashed out in your cases?


Q:

This is really great advice!

A:

Any idea what the average amount of money they make if they sell them? I'm sure a lot go for joy rides, but I wasn't sure how lucrative the stolen car market is...


Q:

That would be a very desirable objective. If we had a way of achieving that objective without going to war with North Korea, I would be in favor it it. I don’t believe we do.

A:

Let’s take drilling in the Arctic as an example of how standing works in environmental lawsuits. In order to file a lawsuit, you have to have a personal stake in the matter. In the Arctic drilling cases, our clients are organizations whose members use the Arctic Ocean for fishing or whale watching or a host of other activities that would be harmed if there was a giant oil spill in the Arctic Ocean, one of the worst places in the world to have an oil spill. That potential harm to our clients’ interests is what gives them legal standing to sue. And that legal doctrine allows our clients to hold the federal government accountable for following the law by taking the government to court. It’s an incredibly important and valuable system of checks and balances that forces the government to be accountable to ordinary citizens.


Q:

Thanks! It's essentially what my AP Bio teacher did for my high school class, and it wasn't stressful to prepare at all. We were used to seeing the question style in small doses throughout the year as we completed each unit, so it wasn't hard to just do more problems when the test came.

A:

Great q. First, they don't really take these to chop shops. If they sell a car, kids told us, they do so only after police have chased them and they know it's "hot." At that point, just get rid of it, right? So they might flip it for $20 or $30 to a friend or someone older who is desperate for a short-term means of transportation. Sometimes, they claim, they can get $100 or $200 off a car. But as you can see -- selling the vehicle is not really the point, it's an after-effect of the ride itself.


Q:

What are your general thoughts on the Trump admin and ties to the Russian government?

With respect to North Korea -- will increased military pressure from the US shake anything loose diplomatically?

A:

I don't intend this to be a frivolous question, but if an action (say, dismantling the Clean Air Plan) has a negative impact on everyone who breathes, doesn't everyone with lungs have standing? Can a lawsuit be mounted on behalf of human life?


Q:

Have you ever worked with celebrity kids? If so, how was it?

A:

Part of their post at the top is showing about police arresting a lot of them. I'd think that's a consequence?


Q:

With respect to any Trump/Russia ties, I do not have enough information to come to any conclusion.

To your second question, successful diplomatic initiatives with North Korea probably need to be coercive; the coercion could include the threat of military action. A better coercive technique would be China threatening to withhold fuel and food aid.

A:

The nature of an environmental dispute can affect the number of people who have standing to sue. For example, a mining proposal that would harm a place that only a few dedicated hikers visit might have a relatively small number of people with standing to sue over it. On the other hand, a wide-ranging proposal to weaken protections for clean air might have a large community of air-breathers with standing to sue.


Q:

Yes and no. I haven't worked with them as a private tutor, but I my first teaching work as a TA at my old high school. A few celebrity kids went there, including Terry Crews's daughter (who was in the year above me) and Zack Snyder's kids. One of Zack Snyder's daughters was a student in the Bio class I TA'd. She was a sweetie :)

A:

It is, to some extent, but a lot of kids said they don't care about the arrest because they're often sent right back home. They laugh as the cuffs click shut. One girl asked police to take her through the McDonald's drive-thru. Several said they'd be right back out to do it again.


Q:

A better coercive technique would be China threatening to withhold fuel and food aid.

Do you think the world needs to endure watching a humanitarian crisis to get NK to change and do you think that cost of human life is worth changing the regime in NK?

A:

http://dailycaller.com/2017/04/27/trump-will-overturn-obamas-permanent-arctic-offshore-drilling-ban/

"In December, Obama designated “the vast majority of U.S. waters in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas as indefinitely off limits to offshore oil and gas leasing,” and promised to review drilling through a “climate” lens."

all those countries you mentioned have a stake up there. The seas mentioned are basically east and west of Alaska.

http://www.bugbog.com/maps/arctic_circle_map/


Q:

was this public school? I wouldn't have expected rich people to enroll their kids in public school.

A:

Why do you think this particular county in Florida has so much higher of a car theft rate then other similar counties in similar regions?


Q:

The option of withholding food and fuel aid, while it would certainly cause hardship in NK, might cause the government their to back off its threats. If this avoided a new Korean war, which would likely result in millions of deaths, these hardships would be justified.

A:

There has never been offshore oil production in America’s Arctic Ocean, and there never should be, for three groups of reasons. It’s a valuable and fragile place, home to whales and other ocean wildlife that don’t mix well with offshore oil drilling. It’s one of the worst places in the world to have an oil spill, given the extreme weather and distance from Coast Guard stations and infrastructure needed for clean-up. And the Arctic is the part of our planet that may be suffering the most from climate change – it would add insult to injury to drill for oil in the Arctic and then burn the oil in order to further heat up the climate and hurt the Arctic even more. Our nation and our planet are moving toward new and better sources of clean energy. The solution to our energy problems is to accelerate the transition to cleaner energy, not drill for oil at the ends of the Earth in places where we’ve never even produced oil before.


Q:

It was a private school in Pasadena.

Here in NYC, lots of wealthy parents use the Gifted Public Schools though.

A:

Good question! We asked a ton of people. Kids, law enforcement, judges, politicians. NO ONE had a clear answer. The most logical conclusion -- kids here have just latched onto it as a fad. Fads can be local. Once it becomes the "thing to do" in a particular place, it can spiral.

Our numbers are auto theft arrests, so they do show, in part, that cops here are really going after this particular crime. But all the evidence points to that being a legitimate reaction to the danger at hand.


Q:

Dr. Perry,

In your opinion, are the current administrations escalated tensions with North Korea bringing us closer to a global solution or making the problem worse?

A:

Do you think anything would happen with this lawsuit, or will it just get added to his already massive pile of lawsuits?


Q:

Did you go to a school like Flintirdge or Westridge?

A:

Follow up question:

Are Tampa/Clearwater residences more likely to leave their cars unlocked w keys available?


Q:

Too early to tell. It’s possible that the threatening actions from the administration are only the first phase of a deal-making approach.

A:

The American system of laws and courts is a wonderful thing. Everyone has to follow the law – I have to follow the law, you have to follow the law, and President Trump has to follow the law. When someone doesn’t, ordinary citizens can go into court and seek to hold them accountable. That’s what we’re doing at Earthjustice to fight back against the Trump administration’s illegal actions. And we will get decisions from the courts on all these cases. The wheels of justice sometimes turn a little slowly, but they do turn. One of the great things about filing public interest environmental lawsuits is that you generally get a ruling, up or down.


Q:

University of Rochester for College. I didn't go to Flintridge for HS, but we did have football games against them sometimes.

A:

Interesting question. We haven't calculated location to car unlocked. We don't have broad data for Tampa but we do for Clearwater. Anecdotally, people leave their cars unlocked all across the county. There was never one area that stuck out to us as a place as having more unlocked cars. But I don't have specific numbers here, and maybe we'll look at this further as we continue to report on the problem. Thanks for the suggestion!


Q:

Which would you rather do as an attacking force? :

Land war in russia

Guerilla war in SE asia

Cross channel invasion of UK

Mideast peace through force of arms.

A:

Could you explain a bit more about how the Trump administration is trying to undo various public protections? Are they declining to enforce federal regulations? or trying to change the regulations?


Q:

An entry exam toddlers have to drill for? Doesn't that strike you as straight up dystopian?

A:

The article linked at the top was great. It suggested that the viral nature of social media seems to be a large component in the unusually high concentration of car thefts in the Tampa/Clearwater area.

is there one preferred social media platform that the kids are favoring or does it cross over?


Q:

The last three of these contingencies are merely terrible catastrophes. The first of these contingencies leads to no less than the end of civilization. Is there an option d) none of the above?

A:

So far they have mostly been focused on trying to (illegally) reverse pro-environment actions taken by President Obama. Examples of this include their attempted reversing of the federal coal leasing moratorium adopted by President Obama in early 2016, and their attempted to reverse President Obama’s withdrawal of most of the Arctic Ocean and important parts of the Atlantic Ocean from availability for offshore oil leasing. We’ve filed lawsuits against both those Trump administration actions, which violate the National Environmental Policy Act and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act respectively.


Q:

Absolutely, it's terrible. I hated having my abilities reduced to a set of numbers as a student, and I hate it now as a tutor. It's dehumanizing.

One of the things I aim to do is make that test prep more accessible and affordable for people. Most test prep companies keep their materials under lock and key, and charge something like $100 for a crappy book with a day's worth of exercises. So I released a free test, and a bunch of inexpensive downloadable practice tests, along with a free book on at-home prep methods. Free videos are coming this fall, too!

Hopefully with more companies like Khan Academy offering free prep, and more ethical tutoring companies, standardized tests can be less of an issue for everybody.

A:

It definitely crosses over! But Facebook and Snapchat seem to be leaders.


Q:

Make a deal would imply concessions from the US. What could be these concessions ?

A:

Do you have any recommendations on what an everyday dude can do to stop/slow the DOI from reverting recently designated National Monuments? I see the public comment period starts on the 12th, so I will definitely be doing that. Any other ideas?


Q:

Mentioning Khan Academy gives a lot of respect from a university student. They are praised by so many I know in the engineering field.

A:

Did you find trends in the time of day that most cars were stolen -- mostly in the middle of the night or all times of day?


Q:

Any deal should include both disincentives and incentives (ie. sticks and carrots). China is in the best position to offer disincentives by cutting off fuel and food aid. South Korea and Japan can offer economic incentives, and the U.S. can offer credible security assurances. For example, US, China and NK could sign a joint non-aggression agreement.

A:

I’m so glad you’ll be filing a comment. That’s a great place to start. Telling your senators and member of Congress that you want them to protect all national monuments is another important step. Writing to Secretary Zinke, which you can do on Earthjustice’s website, is another great action you can take.


Q:

Thanks! I have enormous respect for what they do, and I'd love to make a similar website to supplement their materials one day.

A:

Car theft happens in broad daylight and at night, but it's hard to track down the specific time of the theft. Speaking generally, many of them are reported in the morning, because people wake up to discover their car is gone. Then they call police. But police reports only say something like, Call time: 6:32. And then it'll say in the narrative, the car was likely stolen between the hours of 11 p.m. (the last time the victim saw it) and 6 a.m. (when they wake up to the horrifying shock of no car). A lot of kids certainly go carhopping at night, but if they spot a running, unattended car during the day or try a handle and strike gold, they're just as likely to take it at 3 p.m. as 3 a.m.


Q:

Mr. Perry,

What are your thoughts on the probability/likelyhood that North Korea would attempt something like an EMP to damage the US Homeland knowing they couldn't win an all-out war with us?

A:

How has your work changed from working for NRDC to working for Earthjustice? And do you have any advice for a scientist who wants to work for these organizations?


Q:

Any crazy stories, being in and out of people's houses?

A:

Are people really leaving their guns in their cars unattended that often? What percentage of car thefts also include gun theft?

Besides changing sentencing, do you have any other potential solutions suggested by your sources?


Q:

I do not believe that North Korea will use their nuclear weapons for any kind of unprovoked strike against the US, Japan or South Korea, because they know that this will result in the death of its leadership and the devastation of their country.

A:

I’ve been fortunate to work for both Earthjustice and NRDC, two of the most effective environmental groups in the world. I’m proud that NRDC is one of Earthjustice’s clients. My advice to any scientist who wants to work with either organization is to go for it, because having access to great scientific capacity is critical to both organizations. In advocacy work, it’s critical that scientists have both technical and advocacy skills. Including the ability to translate technical concepts into language that is understandable and compelling to laypeople (such as judges).


Q:

In my current work, I carefully choose the 5 or so families I work with to be sane haha. But when I worked for other companies (usually a few hundred different kids every month) I saw some shit. What stands out most was a little 4-year old who had some trouble focusing on his test prep for the Gifted and Talented Exam.

He didn't have terrible focus, just what you'd expect from a kid who is used to playing all day and now has to sit through an hour of drilling questions.

His mom got into a screaming match with him about his poor focus, was threatening to call his dad to come home from work and punish him, etc. It was really sad. Some kids just aren't ready to sit through that many questions at once. But if he has any hope of focusing, screaming at him isn't the way to get him to do it. You gotta make it a positive experience, reward what little focus he does have, etc.

A:

First -- yes, people leave their guns in their cars pretty often. More than you could imagine. We did not calculate an exact percentage of car thefts including guns because we looked specifically at police reports involving an auto theft arrest. If you looked at all auto burglaries, not just thefts, you'd likely turn up a lot more gun cases. But just in car thefts, we saw guns involved in some way in more than 50 cases. A decent chunk of those guns you can guess are stolen -- most 13 or 14 year olds in stolen carfs don't have legally-purchased Glocks.

Sources told us, aside from changing sentencing, they'd like to reach more kids/families with resources like counseling and mentoring. They said they believe this kind of juvenile crime overlaps with dependency issues, substance abuse, mental health problems -- and keeping kids/families involved in schools, support programs, etc. will help keep them away from crime. Of course, that's an unsurprising response. Actually fixing that problem, or determining who provides those resources, and how, brings less clarity.


Q:

Does the U.S. have a long-term strategy for North Korea, or what do you think a long-term strategy should be? It seems like foreign relations with North Korea have historically just been maintaining the status quo and not letting North Korea expand their influence. Is there any realistic way to end the Kim regime or at least improve the lives of North Koreans without military conflict?

A:

Man, if you want to give your kid test anxiety, that's definitely one way to do it. Poor thing.


Q:

What do you think mostly influenced them to do this other than to have fun?

A:

The policy of the last 2 administrations was basically hoping that the Kim regime would collapse. But hope is not a strategy. Our policy should be to have North Korea become a more nearly normal nation that does not feel as much need to continually threatening its neighbors and the US. To achieve that would require the US to offer credible security assurances in return for North Korea backing away from its nuclear threats.


Q:

It was horrible to watch. I was getting anxiety just from hearing it.

A:

Good question. There are a lot of factors at play, but social pressure is a big one. They do it to hang out, to be cool, to gain popularity. A lot of them post pictures to Facebook or statuses about being "on wheels."

Car theft is a crime of opportunity, too. Many of the kids are those who don't otherwise have access to cars or, they say, the money to entertain themselves. One boy told us, simply, "We have to make our own fun."

Lastly -- access: It's super easy to steal a car when you find it unlocked with a key inside. So the simplicity is appealing. Then when they get caught, they're often released right back home. Then they do it again. They get sent home again. It takes a while for consequences to catch up to them, critics say, and that enables more thefts.


Q:

What do you expect to come out of the current Administration's Nuclear Posture Review? Should we expect some substantive change or more continuity with past policies?

A:

I teach chess to the same market. Not even 30 minutes into the first lesson I had with this one kid who I just met (at his modern museum-looking apartment on Park), he replies to my advice "I don't care if my King isn't safe... I don't care if he dies... I don't care if I die." Thankfully his mom heard and gave him a talking to in a separate room. The kid was miserable the whole time; it was only toward the end when we started playing on his iPad against other people, whooping them one by one, that I noticed a huge grin on his face when he had a simple checkmate in 2 and was going to let his time wind down a couple minutes until he only had a few seconds left to make his moves... and then asked his mom if we could extend the lesson another hour...


Q:

Are local politicians and law enforcement embarrassed about the story?

A:

I expect continuity with past policies but it’s early in the process so I could be wrong.


Q:

Wow, I had no idea chess tutoring was a market too! It's great when they finally "get it" and start enjoying it, isn't it?

A:

Embarassed might not be the right word. They told us they were shocked, a bit horrified. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist had a pithy statement: “This is not who we are as a community. It’s reckless and it’s criminal." He said he wanted “to put an end to this madness.”


Q:

Is there any evidence of cooperation between North Korea and Iran on military hardware development?

A:

What is the most popular home science experiment that most of the kids like; yet are simple to learn and explain?


Q:

Do people really leave their car keys in their cars in 2017? I feel like this doesn't happen in the UK, outside of perhaps isolated Scottish islands and the like...

A:

I am not current on the intelligence on this matter, but I believe it is more likely that North Korea got nuclear cooperation from the AQ Khan network in Pakistan.


Q:

I've found that almost any science high school level science experiment can be simplified to an elementary schooler. People have this preconceived notion that some stuff is too complex for kids, but that really isn't the case.

Here are some examples of stuff I've done in the past few months with my kids in grades 1-5.

Endothermic and Exothermic reactions: Brief talk/review on how molecules and atoms interact with each other, but this involves energy changes. Heat is energy. Some reactions absorb heat (called endothermic), and some reactions release heat (exothermic). Discuss the etymology of the words.

Prepare two reactions in glasses. Use baking soda+vinegar for one, Hydrogen peroxide+yeast_soap for the other. Both reactions produce a volcano, kids love it. You can add red dye too. Have kids guess which one is endothermic and exothermic (they try to remember the different vocab terms here, or refer to a sheet where they wrote it down).

Discuss the use of endothermic and exothermic reactions in the real world. Challenge them to think of where something getting cold/hot is useful. Most kids will bring up medical uses at this point, and you can discuss how hospitals have chemical hot and cold packs to help people soothe their injuries. You should also discuss the gas production in both reactions, and talk about where that might be useful (filling a balloon, or harvesting a specific type of gas).

Depending on the age and interest of the kid, I'll look at the products of the reaction to prove that things "changed." Specifically, for the baking soda and vinegar, there isn't any vinegar left once you add enough baking soda. They can taste it to prove it to themselves.

Other recent experiments include: using google cardboard and stereoscopes to talk about our brain's perception of 3D, and then brought over the Vive to have a fun day. This week I talked about mass, volume, and density, and we built a density column in my graduated cylinder out of different fluids. We sometimes do less "involved" experiments, like illustrating probability by counting the responses in 100 shakes of a magic 8 ball, etc. One of these days I'll probably write a blog detailing what I do every week, haha.

A:

Yes they very much do. That happened in 250 cases here in 18 months. It probably happens more than you think!


Q:

What are the most bizarre contingency scenarios that were seriously considered or studied under your term?

A:

You make these all up? They're good.


Q:

We have also locally seen a giant rise in car thefts in the area. 250 reported thefts in 2017 in a city of 150,000 These are also attributed to minors. Do you think this is becoming an epidemic in the US ? What do you think we as peers can do to curb this in minors ?

A:

Our standard contingency plan was for preparing for a North Korean attack against South Korea. We developed a contingency plan for destroying the nuclear facility at Yongbyon with a missile strike. But we put that on the back of the table in favor of diplomacy, which led to the Agreed Framework.


Q:

Yeah, I collected a lot of science equipment over the years and use that. 4M also has great kits on amazon, where you can do cool things like build a hovercraft, make a lemon battery, etc. I use those too.

A:

Interesting! Where is your area? I don't think we've seen evidence to suggest this is a nationwide epidemic. One other area in which we've read a lot about an uptick in juvenile car theft is Milwaukee. The local media there has covered it extensively, and it seems pretty similar to our situation in Pinellas. What can we do to curb this in minors? Everyone we talked to -- politicians, police, judges -- said they did not have a single, perfect fix. But they said in general, keeping kids involved in more positive activities -- school, sports, clubs, mentoring -- will give them less time to act out. That seems like such a simple concept, but several of the teens we talked to said they did in fact start stealing cars or getting into trouble when they began cutting class or stopped playing on a local team.


Q:

What do you think is the most effective way of teaching someone to teach themselves? Or is that just within them?

A:

I live in the Midwest. The city I'm talking about is Davenport, Iowa. The news sites around here are aggressively pushing the issue in the media. The police had put out a notice around 2 months ago that they had seen a huge jump in car thefts and had advised everyone to keep their cars locked at all times.


Q:

I do this by asking leading questions, and encouraging the research process. I don't pretend to know everything with my students, and I'm very open about when I need to look something up.

For example, I did a density column recently with my younger kids. We talked about what density is, and how denser things will sink opposed to less dense things. They got to hypothesize about whether molasses or water has a higher density, and then experiment to see if they were right. I asked them questions about where they think the alcohol would settle in the column. If they asked about a chemical I didn't have on hand, we looked it up together online, and discussed the results.

If you do all the talking and thinking, you teach people to be complacent. But kids are naturally curious, and it's easy to teach them to design their own experiments and do their own research.

A:

Thanks -- that's something we'll take a look at. Do people seem to be locking their cars more, now?


Q:

What use is a test to see if a student is gifted if students train for such a test?

A:

How did you first approach these kids?


Q:

At that point, it's really measuring how well the absorb the teaching (much like a test in school does). Which still measures something, but it's not as valuable as a metric and people seem to think.

A:

Many different ways. Some we cold-called. Some we met after court. Some we met on police ridealongs. Some we requested interviews with in jail, which is a process. When we sat down to talk to them, we tried to keep it simple, to let them talk, to just hear what they had to say. There's a question above about what it was like to talk to the kids. Most of them were pretty bright. They were more than capable of explaining themselves and talking to adults. They've spent a long time in the very confusing criminal justice system and in many ways have mastered its intricacies. Every interview was interesting.


Q:

I have two kids and none of them took the G&T because I'm zoned in one of the best elementary schools in NYC and didn't see a need. what percentage of your kids make it?

A:

This is all so interesting. How did you get an in with this kids? How did you get them to trust you?

It sounds like many of the factors that go into why this happens is similar to why you see children getting into trouble in lots of inner-city, high density areas. Do you have any ideas for communities to take steps to reduce this type of crime and provide other outlets?


Q:

Pretty much all of my kids end up placing in a GT program. One of the things that I feel is broken about the system is that my work has proven to me that with enough prep, nearly everybody can get the scores. It's less about innate intelligence than it is about learning to focus and learning the rules for each puzzle.

That said, I've been pretty disappointed in what the programs end up looking like once you're "in." One of my students, an absolutely brilliant second grader, recently had a homework problem along the lines of "Bob read 5 books, Carol read 6 books, Susan read 3 books (based on a picture graph). If Jose read 4 books, how many students read fewer books that Jose? Explain how you know."

This is a kid who already understands fractions and multiplication. Facepalm.

A:

To the first part, we pretty much just asked them if they'd like to talk. I know that may sound ridiculous, but a lot of it was asking, being told no; asking, being told no; and so on. There were so many kids, we thought some of them would probably speak with us. And they did. Sometimes the kids were trying to change their ways and wanted to warn others. Sometimes they just were willing to talk. They didn't always trust us, but part of it was showing them we knew what we were talking about. We spent months researching, understanding this, building a database. We were able to demonstrate knowledge, to show that we understood and were genuinely interested in their side, and that helped build trust.

There are certainly some similar factors. I think everyone is looking for ideas and ways for communities to stop these problems. Good schools, social programs, opportunities -- that's always the answer. But still a lot of people need help or support.


Q:

yep

i know a kid who was in G&T but didn't get into a really good school for middle school. his mom tried to hard to help with tutors and got the kid reliant on a tutor for everything where he couldn't do a lot of the work himself. he's smart, but a little lazy because of his tutor doing too much work for him

A:

Do y'all know of any plans by current FL legislators to fix this law, or at make the penalties for carjacking as a minor more stiff?

This article was really well done, your hard work is appreciated!


Q:

Yeah, that's just bad tutoring. A good tutor empowers the kid to find the answers on their own, and once that becomes easy, will challenge them to think and work above grade level.

A:

Yes, actually! Legislators have been moving a bill that aims to try kids deemed "prolific juvenile offenders" more quickly and to keep them detained or on an ankle monitor until they're sentenced. It's an attempted fix at a small part of this. And thank you! See more: http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/how-state-leaders-are-trying-to-fix-the-juvenile-car-theft-problem-in/2321579/


Q:

A good tutor empowers the kid to find the answers on their own

Out of curiosity, what do you do when you can't do this?

I used to be sort of the opposite of you, I tutored kids but they were the "not the sharpest tool in the shed" types that came from low income immigrant families and were failing grade school. Way behind, zero work ethic, and put out the minimum effort possible when I tried to help them.

I tutored two of them and couldn't get through to either of them.

A:

Do you think some or many of these kids can be reformed if they are sorry and have the network to help them?


Q:

My mom taught in inner city LA for a long time, so I understand your struggle. I'm fortunate that all my kids right now love learning, and I help foster that. I used to have a student that didn't enjoy learning so much, and getting her to start to be interested in books was a year-long challenge. For that, I read out loud to her from books for hours every week, asking questions and discussing the material periodically. Finally, she started begging for the next chapter, and applying the info she had learned to her other subjects. For a kid to love learning and want to succeed, it helps so much if the parents are on board with taking them to museums, discussing the world with them, etc.

A:

Interesting question. Kids are young, their brains are still developing. That's established. So the guiding philosophy in Florida juvenile justice circles is that everyone can be reformed. No child is lost or beyond hope. The network to help them? That gets more complicated. Many come from difficult circumstances. Most sources we talk to said that network is the biggest struggle -- getting resources and support to children who need it most.


Q:

How do you feel about a higher proportion of rich kids being identified as "gifted" only because their parents can buy test prep?

A:

Hey man, a different question; This article clearly took a shitload of work, if we want to be scientific we can say it took a "Metric shitload" of work.

With how difficult it is to source, cite, find, and corroborate all of this information, and with the contrary, low effort opinion pieces, getting a lot of buzz, how the hell do we rejuvenate journalism on a large scale when the major news outlets in the states seem to be actively working against it? And what's your opinion of how the biggest news outlets with the largest reaches approach the dissemination of information?


Q:

It's terrible. One of the things I aim to do is make that test prep more accessible and affordable for all people. Most test prep companies keep their materials under lock and key, and charge something like $100 for a crappy book with a day's worth of exercises. So I released a free test, and a bunch of inexpensive downloadable practice tests, along with a free book on at-home prep methods on my website. Free videos are coming this fall, too!

Hopefully with more companies like Khan Academy offering free prep, and more ethical tutoring companies, standardized tests can be less of an issue for everybody.

A:

Hey interesting question. I'm sure a lot of journalists could talk on this for hours over a few beers. This did take a lot of work. I think the important thing we've seen is that readers really value long takes and accountability work. This story gets plenty of buzz, too, but part of the dilemma is defining value. At the Times, editors place a lot of emphasis on watchdog journalism, which sometimes involves projects like this. There's value in that, people really do read those stories and sometimes they lead to positive changes. Buzz or not, any impact in that sense -- a change that improves a dangerous situation -- is what we hope for. Sure, that sounds grandiose, but I think that's what a lot of reporters are after. I think anyone with a big platform or a mission of informing the public should be striving for accuracy and relevance.


Q:

It's good that you've thought about the unfairness in the academic world. However, just so you know, many poor families don't have computers, let alone printers, at home, and have rather poor computer literacy, so offering materials online is more or less useless. The parents will not know to look for the materials, and often not be able to work with the children on the books, either because they are too busy or they don't have a suitable academic background to make it through the books. At the very least, if you are serious about democratizing your materials, I encourage you to reach out to schools in underperforming areas so the teachers and admins can spread the word!

A:

Do the kids that do this.usually have enough information to realize how dangerous they are when they do steal and drive a car ?


Q:

That's a good idea, I'll do that!

A:

They know that people crash cars. They know that people get hurt in them. But they told us they're not really thinking about the danger when they take the car. Kids feel invincible, right? We say that all the time. Mortality or injury aren't often at the front of their minds. So when they're behind the wheel, they said, it's all adrenaline. It's cool. And if a cop gets behind them? They said they'll speed the wrong way. They'll hop a curb. They'll do whatever it takes. Because at that point their mind is on one thing, getting away. It's not so much they don't have the information as it isn't a big factor in their decision-making, from what they told us. They don't think anything bad will happen to them, and an arrest isn't that bad -- they don't fear it.


Q:

Why did you become disillusioned with the field of genetics or the medical field?

A:

Former child car thief checking in.

Have you guys talked to any older ex-thieves to get more clarifying answers on why kids steal cars?


Q:

I worked in mosquito research at Caltech, in the most awesome sounding lab I could find. The work we were doing was to genetically engineer mosquitoes to pass on the malaria/dengue/other disease resistance gene at a higher ratio than wild mosquitoes. This is the type of work that could save countless lives if it worked, get a nobel prize, etc. And yet, there was no guarantee that it would ever work, even if it looked great on paper. And in the end, it was decades of just pipetting the same reaction with a new variation over and over again.

I have enormous respect for those called the field of research. But I was going stir crazy just sitting in the lab. What I thought would be an exciting journey of using your wits to solve a new problem ended up being like 2% of the process. The rest was just getting the reaction to work.

However, my experience in that lab did inspire me on one of my latest projects, which is a portable mosquito netting design. I wanted people to have physical protection in addition to bug spray, so I developed a DIY tutorial for making an adjustable net that fits over an umbrella. That tutorial is at www.Zikashield.net

For medical school, I realized that while I loved learning the material, I just couldn't handle the process of human dissection. I know a lot of people donate their bodies to science, and want to help medical students learn. But I couldn't emotionally handle peeling somebody's face off, or sawing their genitals in half. The school handled it...poorly to say the least. They told me I could skip the labs if I kept my grades up, and I did. But then it ended up becoming a political thing about the curriculum value of an expensive anatomy lab, and they changed their mind after the first semester, essentially forcing me to repeat the year (and classes I had already passed) if I wanted to stay (while accumulating 8% interest on my loans, not to mention the apartment lease, etc.) So I left.

A:

We haven't reached a ton of older thieves but it's something we've looked at and will possibly keep trying to do. The interesting thing is a lot of older thieves stole cars with screwdrivers/forced entry. The crime today is a little less technical, and some different people are doing it. You from the area?


Q:

I find your comments really interesting to read. Once you've collected enough anecdotes, you could write a very readable memoir.

A:

Funny you should say that. Here in Saint Paul, Minnesota the city has started renting goats to use as weed control on some public lands. The local press can't get enough of it.


Q:

Thanks! I'll probably do that one day. If you like my writing, you should check out my books (listed in the main post.) The hygiene one is currently free!

A:

I used to live/work in Boston and they did that there too!


Q:

Just graduated from med school in NYC and I don't want to start residency. You hiring?

A:

I'll let you know!


Q:

Reading this makes me think about doing this.

How would you warn someone not to do this?

A:

I wouldn't! It's great (as long as you're a good teacher and get along with kids), and I love my job!


Q:

I am extremely jealous that I can not afford you for my children! You sound awesome and fun. Do you have any tips on finding good tutors for lower income families? How to spot a good tutor?

A:

Hey thanks! There are great tutors at all price points: if I lived outside of NYC I wouldn't be able to charge what I do. Good tutors are people who click with your kids and explain things in a way they understand. They should be able to reduce stress, and help them see learning as fun. You can find tutors at colleges and high schools, a lot of students and teachers can definitely use the opportunity for some spare change.


Q:

Do you feel that training young students to devote large blocks of time in the pursuit of maximizing their score on a standardized exam is missing the point of applied intelligence entirely? Let's be real here: the world needs critical thinkers that can analyze empirical data and draw relevant conclusions in conjunction with "soft-skills" that are difficult to measure (i.e. leadership ability), not people that are skilled at taking a multiple choice exam. What are your thoughts on society's over-emphasis on high stakes testing?

A:

Absolutely, standardized tests are totally evil. I really wish we lived in a world where they had little to no emphasis on standardized tests. And most of my work isn't really test prep, it's educational enrichment (which is a lot more fun for the kids and for me!) For my year-round clients, I anticipate which tests they'll be taking and just work in some occasional prep questions here and there. That way, it's not overwhelming, it doesn't take too much time, and it still gets them used to the wording and test style.

When I do have to do focused test prep, I try to make my prep as "fun" as it can possibly be, by teaching questions with respect to their applications to in other fields, using experiments where I can, and even using games to teach the logic concepts for the younger kids.


Q:

When will you decide to start a school?

A:

Maybe one day haha.


Q:

Did you ever find a hardcore sex chamber or hidden room?

A:

Not while tutoring, I don't snoop around my client's houses, haha. I have found a hidden sex chamber somewhere else though, which was at a party in the Hamptons. My friend got tickets to a party at Sir Ivan's Castle, and he had a sex dungeon with a bunch of giant stuffed rabbits in chains. No, we didn't use it haha.


Q:

How much of an advantage do you think private tutoring gives, would you want it for your own kids?

A:

It gives a huge advantage. I got the occasional tutor in school myself for subjects where I needed help or didn't click with the teacher, and it made a world of difference. I'll definitely tutor my own kids, or if they don't want to hear it from me, I would 100% hire somebody if they needed it!


Q:

How many billable hours do you do in a week, summer and winter? How do you work around school hours/weekends?

A:

I basically don't start work till 3PM on most weekdays, and hours are definitely less in the summer. I spend my mornings writing and working on other projects! One of the toughest things about this industry is that for my kids are on vacation, I don't get paid. If I'm sick, I don't get paid. So I have to budget for that all year.


Q:

Hey nice AMA! I am kind of in the same boat as you as I currently private tutor kids of the upper middle class in HK. I charge a bit less than you, around $85-95 per hour for a 1:1 class. Most of my students are between ages 3.5-10.

My question for you is do you feel this is sustainable in the long run? Is there a reason why you choose to work 10-15 hours a week as opposed to working a few extra hours for a few extra hundreds of dollars?

I have been doing this for that past 5 years now and I am not sure if it's just me, or how it works being a private tutor, but I equate everything into hours working. For example if I want to buy something, I'll just think "oh it's ok, that's only 40 mins of work, no problem". It's actually quite a bad way of thinking but I can't stop it. Do you feel the same?

A:

My hours are limited by the hours kids are in school. I usually only get one day off per week, and I can only fit in 1-2 students on a given weekday.

I totally get what you mean about thinking about spending in terms of hours worked. I then have to remind myself that it's hours worked before tax :P


Q:

What were your goals before deciding to start your tutoring company?

A:

I wanted to do either a PhD in Genetics or Botany or go to Medical School. A PhD I worked with at Caltech convinced me to go to med school, but I hated it and left after the first year. I always tutored on the side though, and loved it. So this was a natural direction to go in.


Q:

even though you find standardised tests totally evil, (which I agree with,) do you still devote most or all of your focus with the kids to test prep? or do you spend time teaching them how to teach themselves or work on critical thinking etc which may not be 100% relevant to their upcoming exam(s)?

A:

I spend very little time doing pure prep, most if not all of the time on an average day is science experiments and critical thinking!