Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Declare the War Over

The official hidden history of our disastrous war in Vietnam was leaked to the news media in a purloined document called the Pentagon Papers. The damning truth about America’s disastrous war on terrorism has just been made public in a press release.

“There is no battlefield solution to terrorism," The RAND Corporation, a top Pentagon contractor on national defense research, concluded in a comprehensive study of military campaigns against insurgency groups around the world. Specifically, US military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan are not working, the study concluded.

“Current U.S. strategy against the terrorist group al Qaida has not been successful in significantly undermining the group's capabilities, according to a new RAND Corporation study issued today,” the California-based research company stated in a press release dated July 29. “Al Qaida has been involved in more terrorist attacks since Sept. 11, 2001, than it was during its prior history and the group's attacks since then have spanned an increasingly broader range of targets in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, according to researchers.

“In looking at how other terrorist groups have ended, the RAND study found that most terrorist groups end either because they join the political process, or because local police and intelligence efforts arrest or kill key members. Police and intelligence agencies, rather than the military, should be the tip of the spear against al Qaida in most of the world, and the United States should abandon the use of the phrase ‘war on terrorism,’ researchers concluded.”

A better term would be "counterterrorism," the RAND study advised. "The term we use to describe our strategy toward terrorists is important, because it affects what kinds of forces you use," Seth Jones, the study’s lead author, said. "Terrorists should be perceived and described as criminals, not holy warriors, and our analysis suggests that there is no battlefield solution to terrorism."

On its web site, RAND bluntly summarized what it found:

“All terrorist groups eventually end. But how do they end? The evidence since 1968 indicates that most groups have ended because (1) they joined the political process (43 percent) or (2) local police and intelligence agencies arrested or killed key members (40 percent). Military force has rarely been the primary reason for the end of terrorist groups, and few groups within this time frame have achieved victory. This has significant implications for dealing with al Qa'ida and suggests fundamentally rethinking post-9/11 U.S. counterterrorism strategy: … The authors conclude that policing and intelligence, rather than military force, should form the backbone of U.S. efforts against al Qa'ida. And U.S. policymakers should end the use of the phrase ‘war on terrorism’ since there is no battlefield solution to defeating al Qa'ida.”

The RAND report echoes public statements by numerous retired military officers, diplomats and veterans who argued against waging war on Iraq before that war was launched, and in the aftermath of the March 2003 invasion. Some US military commanders in Iraq came to a similar conclusion three years ago, according to a June 13, 2005 Knight Ridder report: “Baghdad - A growing number of senior American military officers in Iraq have concluded that there is no long-term military solution to an insurgency that has killed thousands of Iraqis and more than 1,700 U.S. military personnel during the past two years. …

"I think the more accurate way to approach this right now is to concede that... this insurgency is not going to be settled, the terrorists and the terrorism in Iraq is not going to be settled, through military options or military operations," Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said last week, in a comment that echoes what other senior officers say. "It's going to be settled in the political process."

When the Pentagon Papers were published in 1971 by The New York Times and other newspapers, most Americans learned for the first time what many Vietnam veterans had been saying for years—that there was no military solution to the social and political issues we were trying to bomb into submission in Southeast Asia. Folk singer Phil Ochs, among other critics of that war, pointed to the way out in a popular song: "Declare the war is over." Now the Pentagon’s top think tank is saying there is no military way to stop suicide bombers in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s time, the RAND study advises, to wind down military operations and turn the job over to the police of tracking down violent extremists, while politicians work on addressing legitimate grievances and social concerns in the Middle East.

For further information: http://www.rand.org/news/press/2008/07/29/

Thursday, July 24, 2008

War Stories

Growing up, I was fascinated by war stories. None of them prepared me for the Vietnam war, where I grew into adulthood as a soldier and then as a veteran protesting the war. That’s because of how war stories are generally presented in America: War is hell, but it’s the only proper way of peacemaking in a rough world.

It’s hard for veterans with another view to get heard in this country. It takes a lot of perseverance. It means telling shocking accounts to often skeptical audiences of ill-conceived missions that waste soldiers’ lives, of counter-productive actions against civilians, whose outraged relatives then seek revenge, escalating the level of violence. It means enduring accusations of making it up, of being unpatriotic. It means being your own reporter and presenting documentation and other witnesses, as well as your commentary. It means being ignored or rebuffed by news organizations, more often than not.

Fed up with news coverage of the current war, many veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are going public to tell their own stories. Some want to call attention to heroic and humanitarian deeds, which they contend demonstrate America’s commitment to fighting the good fight against bad guys. Others want to unveil horrendous deeds, which they contend undermine the good deeds and official claims of protecting civilians trapped in war zones that our military actions created. Upbeat war stories generally run as feature stories and then get overshadowed by headlines and photos of the next bombing or disputed battle. The bitter war stories are a harder sell in newsrooms, because they are far more chilling than editors are comfortable with.

Consider the recent Winter Soldier hearings at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Maryland. “The BBC predicted that the event, organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War, ‘could be dominating the headlines around the word this week’ (3/7/08)…Yet there has been an almost complete media blackout on this historic news event in the U.S. corporate media,” noted Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) after the four-day event in March.

The Washington Post buried an account in the local news section. The major TV networks ignored this grassroots challenge to the official version of the war on terrorism, presented by “scores of angry young combat veterans denouncing the war they recently fought as a disaster kindled by inadequate vision, with American troops wasted while being pushed to commit acts that scarred them,” said a report on the hearings in The VVA Veteran, published by Vietnam Veterans of America.

Former soldiers told of repeated incidents, sparked by what they were trained to do, of GI’s in supply conveys and patrols shooting up civilian cars that share the same roadways, even driving on sidewalks and hitting anyone in the way. They told of repeatedly being ordered to break into people’s homes in futile searches for insurgents and terrorizing families whose sons and fathers were dragged out of their beds and hauled off for interrogation. They told of repeated abuse of men, women and children held in custody. They told of living with nightmares of their own actions.

“The veterans are not against the military and seek not to indict it – instead they seek to shine a light on the bigger picture: that the Abu Ghraib prison regime and the Haditha massacre of innocent Iraqis are not isolated incidents perpetrated by ‘bad seeds’ as the military suggests, but evidence of an endemic problem,” The Sunday Times Magazine of London reported in a cover story on the veterans’ searing accounts. “Some see it as their responsibility to speak out … They believe that, as veterans, they are the most credible sources of information. They say they were put in immoral and often illegal positions.”

These are the violence-scorched voices of veterans that most of the American news media ignored in previous wars, as well. But times have changed since the TV networks and major newspapers shied from accounts of repeated military assaults on civilians in Vietnam, conveyed by Vietnam veterans in hearings around the country and before Congress. This time, the “harrowing testimony about atrocities,” as FAIR put it, was carried live on the Internet and widely broadcast on independent TV and radio.

“These are the stories you never hear in the paper,” a woman watching a live screening of the Winter Soldier hearings shown at a Unitarian Church in Cambridge, Mass., told a Boston Globe reporter. “It’s really powerful to hear from the veterans.”

Yet some speakers at the hearings in Maryland told the same horrendous accounts four years ago at a Veterans for Peace convention in Boston. Organizers of that 2004 event—which I reported on at the time in an Internet newsletter—sought news media coverage of the newly-formed Iraq Veterans Against the War. Many of these veterans were subsequently featured three years later in a Nation magazine cover story titled “The Other War: Iraq Vets Bear Witness.”

These accounts and others are presented in a new book, Collateral Damage: America’s War Against Iraqi Civilians by Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian, published by Nation Books. Hedges, who wrote the Iraq vets’ story in The Nation, is a former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times; Al-Arian, a freelancer whose work has appeared in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. So far, according to a Google search, the most substantial media notice of this book appeared in the Deseret News of Salt Lake City, Utah.

“It is an unapologetic ‘expose of a military occupation gone awry.’" says Deseret News book reviewer Dennis Lythgoe. “The authors discuss how the mechanics of war — home raids, convoys, patrols, detentions and military checkpoints — lead to abuse and the killing of innocent people.” After summarizing some nightmarish incidents, Lythgoe concludes, “This represents just a small part of the stories contained in this disturbing but well-written book about the damages of war that journalists don't usually cover.”

Hedges, who wrote two previous books on the ugly reality of modern warfare, which he covered as a war correspondent, addresses this disconnect in Collateral Damage. “The press coverage of the war in Iraq rarely exposes the twisted pathology of this war,” he writes. Part of it has to do with reporters “hemmed in by drivers and translators and official security and military escorts” not being present during most military actions, when ferocious gunfire can abruptly erupt amid mid-day civilian traffic or in a residential home subjected to a night time raid.

“The campaign against a mostly invisible enemy, many veterans said, has given rise to a culture of terror and hatred among U.S. forces, many of whom … have in effect declared war on all Iraqis,” Hedges wrote in a summary of his interviews with 50 disillusioned veterans of military operations in Iraq. That sort of attitude is not likely to be shared with news reporters by publicity minded military escorts. Another reason reporters in Iraq seldom stray from the officially approved version of events, Hedges maintains, is self-censorship in order to stay on the good side of military escorts: “Most reporters know that the invasion and the occupation have been a catastrophe. They know the Iraqis do not want us [there]. … But the press, or at least most of it, has lost the passion, the outrage, and the sense of mission that once drove reporters to defy authority and tell the truth.”

Hedges also faults editors, who make the final decisions. Perhaps the biggest reason for lack of coverage of what he calls “the vast enterprise of industrial slaughter unleashed in Iraq” by Americans wielding machine guns, grenade launchers, heavy artillery, rockets and bombs from helicopters and airplanes in city neighborhoods and rural villages is that news editors, he argues, have lost interest in the war. “As the war sours, as it no longer fits into the mythical narrative of us as liberators and victors, it is fading from view. The cable news shows that packaged and sold us the war have stopped covering it,” he noted, while newspapers “have shut down their Baghdad bureaus.”

Still, there are ways to reach the public. When the 1971 Winter Soldier hearings held in Detroit, Michigan, got scant news coverage outside the Midwest, hundreds of Vietnam veterans took their war stories to Washington. They set up an encampment to talk with members of Congress, passersby and anybody else who would listen. What they had to say as they marched around from government office to government office set off such a confrontation with the Nixon administration it became an instant national news story.

Months later, a small group of Vietnam veterans published a book (Winning Hearts & Minds) that told exceedingly grim war stories in poems—many of which quickly appeared in newspapers and magazines across the country and, within a few years, in American history books.

Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are following a similar route and making wide use of the Internet, as well. A sampling of their stories was published earlier this year in Warrior Writers: Re-Making Sense, a Collection of Artwork by Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War. “This writing is raw, edgy and meant to shock readers into feeling what it’s like, for an instant, to be in a soldier’s skin when war memories intrude into civilian life,” I wrote in the book’s introduction.

For further information: www.ivaw.org

Jan Barry is a veteran of war zones and newsrooms and coeditor of Winning Hearts & Minds: War Poems by Vietnam Veterans, among other works.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Oily Times

What would Ida Tarbell make of today’s global oil cartels? A century ago, Tarbell’s relentless reporting in magazine articles and a book sparked antitrust actions by state and federal officials to break up the oil market monopoly headed by John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company.

Today, news organizations and governments seem clueless as to how the market system works that has created an international financial crisis. Rather than getting to the bottom of who is causing gasoline prices to skyrocket, Congress is debating which lands and sea beds to open for more drilling, which might produce some more oil years from now or hasten the end of the era of burning underground fossil residue for fuel. News editors seem more interested in documenting the latest lurch in gasoline prices and their corrosive effect on the cost of living than in dispatching reporters to uncover what’s going on.

In the early 1900s, Ida Tarbell’s “Standard Oil expose, bolstered by [her] Rockefeller character sketch, spawned reform efforts within the U.S. Congress, state legislatures, the White House, and governor’s mansions. It led to precedent-shattering court rulings as well as populist movements,” noted Steve Weinberg in a new look at that distant, yet not dissimilar era. Weinberg is an investigative reporter who teaches journalism at the University of Missouri. His recently published book is titled Taking on the Trust: The Epic Battle of Ida Tarbell and John D. Rockefeller (W.W. Norton & Co., 304 pp.).

The muckraking legacy created by Tarbell and other pioneering investigative journalists is hard to find in current reporting on the latest oil outrage. A Google search on “oil prices” churned through pages of repetitive, surface-skimming news items on the ups and downs of exceedingly costly oil. Then a beacon of light appeared in a local news report in the Malden (Mass.) Observer on the steep rise of home heating fuel costs, which was investigated by a state legislative committee:

“The state senate’s report, ‘Running on Empty,’ places much of the blame on excessive speculation in the oil futures markets. Unregulated trading and market manipulation, the report says, add $25 to $50 per barrel to the price of oil,” reporter Rob Barry noted in the July 16 news story.

“The necessary trade regulations were removed by what is commonly referred to as the ‘Enron Loophole,’ a piece of legislation created by the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which President Bill Clinton signed in December 2000.An attempt to reverse this legislation was vetoed by President George W. Bush earlier this year.

“’Tighter control on speculators and market manipulation could immediately reduce fuel prices by 25 percent,’ said Michael Greenberger, former director of the Division of Trading and Marketing at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.”

Given such oily manipulation wreaking havoc on Americans’ wallets, here’s the extent of official action that the Malden reporter could find: “As oil prices skyrocket, legislators nationwide are asking for more money” from Congress for state heating assistance funds.

Ida Tarbell is likely spinning in her grave. “Reading Tarbell’s expose of the Standard Oil Company is a remarkable experience; in many ways it seems that it could have been composed only yesterday, not more than a century ago,” Weinberg marveled. Yet, despite the scores of probing journalists that Weinberg and others taught at Investigative Reporters and Editors workshops, most of today’s economically battered news business seems devoid of the moral outrage over manipulation of the nation’s pocketbook expenses that Tarbell conveyed to readers of her day.

“Rockefeller, according to Tarbell’s evidence, ‘has introduced into business a spy system of the most odious character. He has turned commerce from a peaceful pursuit to war, and honeycombed it with cruel and corrupt practice, turned competition from honorable emulation to cutthroat struggle,’” Weinberg noted, quoting from her portrayal of the original oil tycoon, who amassed enormous wealth from rigging the costs of oil delivered through a regulation-skirting monopoly to hard-pressed customers.

Tarbell relentlessly uncovered how Rockefeller’s secretive business system worked, traveling great distances to read lawsuits and interview informants. “Starting with court testimony and other statements from independent oil producers over a thirty-year period and bolstered by information from Standard Oil insiders, Tarbell pieced together a corporate espionage saga perhaps greater than anything previously perpetrated by a government,” Weinberg found.

The thrust of Weinberg’s book is that Tarbell “invented a new form of journalism” in a robber baron era that was largely covered by slap-dash, sensationalistic reporting on police blotter crimes and manufactured celebrities. Paying homage to such a legacy of probing for the hidden hand whipsawing the price of a vital commodity, he suggests, is exceedingly timely.

Alive at 65

After an astonishingly long run, I’m retiring from the life of a daily newspaper reporter. This was my day job so I could write poetry. But it got all mixed up: News became the main theme of my poetry; poetry snuck into my journalism. To borrow from a highway safety campaign that I generally ignored, given some recent health bumps and the frenetic pace of the Internet-challenged news business, I’m slowing down to the speed limit.

The company announcement succinctly tells the story:

Record reporter Jan Barry is “retiring into his next career”– teaching and writing – at the end of the month. Last semester he moonlighted as an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University and three years ago he was NJMG’s Journalist-in-Residence at Rutgers University. Jan has had a long affiliation with The Record: his first job out of the Army, returning from Vietnam in the mid-’60s, was that of library clerk. He returned to us briefly as a correspondent in the early ’80s, but it wasn’t until 1987 that he joined us as a full-time reporter in the Passaic/Morris Bureau. He won several awards for The Record, including a Community Service award from the Society of Silurians for exposing how government inefficiency and political maneuvering polluted the state’s water quality. He was also a point reporter and key contributor on The Record’s acclaimed “Toxic Legacy” investigative series. “It’s been a memorable career and provided the underpinning for my other endeavors in teaching and writing books and poetry,” Jan said. He is the author of Earth Songs: New & Selected Poems and A Citizen’s Guide to Grass-Roots Campaigns.

My first gig as a news reporter was in the summer of 1976, when I applied for a job as a municipal correspondent at the Morristown (NJ) Daily Record. I was just completing my second poetry anthology (Demilitarized Zones: Veterans after Vietnam) and needed a better income than poetry readings provided. I’d also decided I needed to learn the discipline of newspaper writing. I discovered that I enjoyed the hectic, eclectic nature of newspaper reporting. Over the course of 30 years—with some time out for other pursuits—I wrote thousands of news articles. Here’s one of my favorites:

Positively relentless in saving Highlands
Women's Clubs used old-style diplomacy

By Jan Barry, Staff Writer

When it comes to saving North Jersey's environment, a group of women has proven that some crusading techniques are timeless.

As legislators strode into the State House last week for a session that included a vote on the Highlands preservation bill, the halls were lined by environmental lobbyists - familiar faces from the Sierra Club and the activist Highlands Coalition. But among the most persistent at spurring passage of the Highlands legislation, by all accounts, were members of the New Jersey State Federation of Women's Clubs.

As it happens, just the night before, the organization was honored for its role more than a century ago in helping save the Hudson River Palisades from quarry blasters.

"If it were not for the New Jersey Federation of Women's Clubs, we would not be here," Carol Ash, executive director of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, said at a tribute dinner Wednesday at the Ross Dock park house at the base of the Palisades in Fort Lee.

Ash also lauded the group for waging a similar effort to save the core watershed lands of the Highlands from development.

That effort, two of its leaders said, involved mobilizing the group's 305 clubs and 14,000 members in New Jersey to politely but persistently contact state officials by letter, e-mail, telephone, fax, and in face-to-face talks.

"One hundred years ago, [women's club leaders] Cecilia Gaines and Elizabeth Vermilye kind of invented the wheel when it came to demonstrating women's organized strength. We just replicated that," said Ann Quinn, the immediate past state president of the federation.

"It appeared to work all over again," she said after witnessing Thursday's vote for the Highlands bill by a sweeping majority of legislators.

The Highlands bill, which Governor McGreevey will sign shortly, will sharply restrict development on critical lands near reservoirs and feeder streams that provide water to millions of state residents. The mountainous area, which has been under severe development pressures, stretches from northern Bergen County down to Hunterdon County's farmlands.

"We all stood up and cheered," Quinn said of the crowd in the galleries of the Senate and Assembly, as the Highlands bill passed by wide margins. "So many groups worked on this for so long, it was like 'Wow, it really happened!'-"

David Epstein, a member of McGreevey's Highlands Task Force, called the women's clubs the "bedrock" of the Highlands effort.

"They are so unassuming, so courteous, and yet they are so tenacious and passionate about protecting the environment," said Epstein, executive director of the Morris Land Conservancy.

"They did so much of the legwork to get this done. They were at every single hearing; they were lobbying in the halls," he said. "Their approach is always so friendly and courteous, you can't help but be taken by the positive attitude they bring to this."

Curtis Fisher, a policy adviser to Governor McGreevey, described the group's lobbying approach. "I was at an event with my boss. The federation grabbed him and said 'the Highlands, the Highlands, the Highlands!' They kept calling me, attending hearings all across New Jersey - the federation was there, raising the flag for protecting the Highlands."

Quinn, who spent Thursday buttonholing legislators after testifying month after month at hearings, credited the federation's legislative chairman, Patty Whitehouse, with organizing the lobbying effort.

"She was the one who coordinated everything. She did a vast amount of work," Quinn said. Whitehouse, a Peapack-Gladstone resident of the Highlands who recently became a vice president of the state federation, said she copied the 1897-1900 letter-writing campaign used to spur New Jersey and New York officials to save the Palisades.

"And we used some new techniques," Whitehouse confided. "E-mail and telephones!"

(The Record, Bergen Co., NJ 6/13/04)

Learning Curve

Life is often not a straight line, but a lot of twists and turns. In high school, I couldn’t wait until the end of classes to get outside—to play sports, roam the countryside beyond our town and then the wider world. I was an antsy student. Now I’m working on ways of bringing what I’ve learned out in the world into classrooms.

This spring, I taught investigative journalism to graduate students at New York University, learning as much from the experience as I hopefully contributed. The final product of the course can be seen at skyscraperproject.blogspot.com. One of the students, Jonathan Starkey, summarized their work well in an introduction to the class project:

“For weeks, a group of student-reporters at New York University set out to understand and describe skyscraper safety in New York in the post-September 11, 2001 era. The product became the stories you see posted here. Members of Prof. Jan Barry’s Investigations in Depth class looked into everything from the width of stairwells in commercial buildings to evacuation procedures, from problems in high-rise residential buildings to recent construction-related deaths in the city. New Yorkers, visitors to the city and workers want to be safe not just inside buildings, but also while walking by buildings and working on the buildings. The 15-part report was produced by a diverse group of student-reporters (see bios after each story) over the course of a semester. We hope these stories will add substance to the discussion about skyscraper safety in New York City.”

My students and I learned a great deal about this topic, which I proposed after walking upon the site of the horrendous 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist fire (now part of the NYU campus)—where desperate workers trapped in a fire jumped out windows to their deaths. I wondered if high-rises in New York are any safer today in the wake of the 9/11 horror, where desperate workers trapped in fires at the World Trade Center towers jumped out windows to their deaths.

I learned from the NYU students, fellow professors and well-versed guest speakers helpful ways to improve my classroom skills. Students also showed me how to create and manage a blog that provides much more interaction and multi-media materials than my ancient Authors Guild web site (which is in the process of being updated).

I learned many other things, as well…such as it takes about 40 minutes to walk from the NJ Transit train platform in Penn Station to NYU’s Department of Journalism off Cooper Square. And in those 40 minutes of fast walking every Friday morning, I traveled back through 40 years of memories to when I lived in that part of New York, in my mid-20s, in a very different stage of my life.

In 1968, I was a West Point dropout with a checkered academic history of attending classes at five institutions of higher education in three states without getting close to receiving a bachelor’s degree. I couldn’t sit still in college classrooms. I walked off the first campus to join the Army and see the world. After a war tour in Vietnam, the Army sent me to West Point. But I couldn’t sit still there either and resigned from the military academy to seek an alternative to senseless wars. I took classes at three more colleges, but none had the kind of course—how to change the world—that I was looking for.

So by the spring of 1968, fed up with formal education, I tried to directly reform America’s addiction to war, as an unpublished writer and fledgling peace activist working out of a Lower East Side tenement apartment, squeaking by on a low-paid job as a filing clerk at the New York Public Library. Without much money, I walked a lot of pavement. That hard-scrabble pavement is still there. Another constant in the city’s ever changing skyline are the flocks of young people who come to the Big Apple seeking big things in their lives.

Back in the day, working with other Vietnam veterans, peace activists, writers and the woman who became my life partner, I learned how to focus my energies, set goals and get projects done—including poetry anthologies and other creative activities that helped shift public sentiment on the war in Vietnam. In an era when reporters learned their craft by running out the door and reporting whatever was going on, I then forged a career in journalism, learning by daily trials and errors and the guidance of good editors. Once I decided on what I wanted to learn in more depth, I returned to college and got a B.A. in political science and wrote a book on how to organize a grassroots social change campaign.

Much to my amazement, I’ve gotten astonishingly diverse invitations over the years to talk to activists, journalists and students from grade school to college on how to tackle tough issues in ways that hopefully make a difference. Those talks led to teaching college courses.

But I’m still wary of the traditional academic approach to teaching the elements of public life in America. Despite the civics books and the history books, not to mention the Constitution of the United States, the biggest barriers to getting vital information and acting on that information are those set up by bureaucrats and politicians—graduates often of the finest institutions of higher education—who prefer that ordinary people not participate in American democracy. That’s where civic activism and civic journalism come in, to give voice to affected citizens’ concerns. But grassroots citizen action gets less attention in the academic world than the traditional levers of power.

To convey citizens’ concerns effectively, I found, requires doing sound research, wide networking and a well-focused presentation; skills that are honed by seasoned activists, journalists and sympathetic government officials in the heat of doing a project. It requires getting out of the classroom/newsroom/office, interacting with people who are addressing an issue and applying analytical skills to systematically explore what’s going on and what’s being done about it.

Figuring this out took me on a long learning curve—one that I’m still on.