“May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.”

"This report is maybe 12-years-old. Parliament buried it, and it stayed buried till River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear because there's a whole universe of folk who are gonna know it, too. They're gonna see it. Somebody has to speak for these people. You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, 10, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people . . . better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave." ~ Captain Malcom Reynolds

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Saturday, February 28, 2015

I'm afraid it's over

Look winter. You gave it a good run, really. But now you’re just being clingly, sticking around and things are getting… awkward…
It’s not your fault, I’m just ready to move on. 
Thanks for trying - but I’m afraid I’m going to have to end this and find someone warmer, less snowy, and with longer days. 
Hopefully you can understand. 
*me totally done with this season*

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Please Read and Consider

Twenty Two.

I want you to remember that number, we're going to come back to it.

Over the past couple of years you all have graciously put up with some of my discussions regarding the issues facing our military veterans. Things like post traumatic stress. Traumatic brain injuries. Social acceptance and re-integration. A plethora of things which our society, our Veteran's Administration and our own warrior culture make difficult, if not life-altering for those who have served their nation overseas. Particularly given the stigma such labels bring - whether the issues of society, medical and legal judgements regarding one's stability and safety in the community at large; or the (often more demanding) internal group pressures to "suck it up," "put it behind you," and all the other things which makes it hard for men and women to accept these problems, much less seek help for them.

And, with overseas conflicts continuing to involve our troops for a second decade, as well as an unstable international environment, there is no end in sight - which only means more people who have chosen to serve will have to face these issues in one way or another.

Twenty Two.

Multiply it by thirty = sixty six.

By 365 = 8030.

You see "Twenty Two" is important to me, and to a growing number of other people.

Twenty Two is the number of veterans, each and every day, who commit suicide in this nation.

That's the number of men and women who, for whatever reason, decide that the pain is too much, that there are no other options, and that the easiest way out is to end their own life. Leaving their loved ones, their friends, their comrades in arms to deal with the aftermath. Making a final choice to kill themselves rather than to struggle on.

I want to give you a number for comparison. 6133. That's the TOTAL US casualties from 2001-2014 in Afghanistan and Iraq combined for military troops.

We lose more men and women every year to suicide than we have in over a decade of combat. Think about that.

Twenty Two people a day.

Which brings us to my request today.

As I said, a growing number of veteran's organizations, families, and other groups are trying to combat this. Attempting to fill the gaps which the VA can't reach, and to cross the bridge through peer support in hopes that a shared bond can help some of these people find hope instead of losing it all.

One of these is #Mission22. The group came of out certain special operations units but is rapidly growing beyond that. Their mission is particularly to address the stigmas involving PTSD, TBI and veteran suicides, and to help our brothers and sisters.

As part of this they are holding a raffle as a fundraiser. The goal is to raise $20,000 by May and they are already halfway there. 

Winning prizes include a custom, hand-built 1911 pistol as well as a host of other items.

Tickets are $5 each.

Here's what I'm asking - go to the site.

Sign up for at least one ticket. But I'm asking something more.

Between ticket(s) and donations, give the group at least $22 dollars. However you choose to split it. To remember why we are doing this, the Twenty Two lives that ended today.

I need a custom .45 like I need a third arm, but I'm doing it. $22 is less than it costs to take my family through the drive-thru for lunch, and it's a much worthier cause.

In fact, I promise this - should, by some chance, I win - I'll auction the package off and donate every cent back to #Mission22. Sworn and promised here publicly.

If you can all afford it I beg you to donate as you can. Forward this as well, spread the message to those who can also help.

Let's push them over the top in ways they never imagined. Let's drive this mission forward and help these men and women find some peace.

Those Twenty Two deserve it.

Peter Grant is an Evil Man

Oh sure, he's a nice guy... generous, intelligent, author, ordained, all that stuff. We like reading his stuff, talking with him, and heck even take advice at times.

But don't be fooled.

The man is EVIL. I know this from experience.

Our evidence?

Well, a month or so back, good old Peter took himself a road trip with his wife to visit some fellow bloggers. During which he casually mentioned picking up a jar of moonshine cherries during the trip and his enjoyment thereof.

How does this make him bad?

Well, last week I was on a work trip through the same part of the country with one of my Federal counterparts. As we passed a sign advertising a local moonshine distributor (legal sort TYVM), we both expressed an interest in trying some out, as apparently we'd both never been exposed. And, remembering Peter's words, I figured "What's the worst that could happen?"

After talking with the very knowledgeable and helpful lady who owned the store we made our purchases - I picked up a jar of the aforementioned cherries, and a bottle of a smokey moonshine I was told would be a good starting point for someone who enjoyed single malt scotches, sipping tequila and the like. Whereupon we drove home, recovered from the trip, and I have now had a chance to sample each.

The cherries? I probably wouldn't enjoy them straight, but one or two on top of a warm brownie, or with some ice cream? Yum!

The smokey moonshine? It will clear your sinuses and is a great sipping drink (IN MODERATION!!!) on the record cold nights we've had lately. Definitely something I'm glad I tried but oh boy it has some kick.

I blame you Peter, and I'm calling you out publicly on it. Now I have to remember where I bought this stuff and make a return trip. You lured me with your words, and I hold you responsible sir!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Bless His Heart

We recently got a new supervisor over our section. Just due to the nature of things, we don't have any supervisors in the agency with bomb experience, so it's nothing new - but he is smart enough to know what he doesn't know. I have a good relationship with him from work in other areas, so the past month has seen frequent questions in emails or stops at the office as to how my unit would handle certain situations, what some of our procedures and equipment are, and the like. All part of helping share my knowledge with the department and part of the job.

Now, one of the expectations of my job position is that you answer the phone. I get a lot of freedom to come and go, or use time off when needed, or to do all sorts of other stuff - but. you. answer. the. phone. when. the. boss. calls. Particularly as bomb calls and tactical events tend to be rather tense and time-critical it's certainly a fair expectation. So the family and I are well-versed in the fact that my phone may ring at odd moments, and I will shift gears to answer it and prepare for whatever may come next.

Tonight was one of those times. We were in the post-dinner bath and bed cycle for the munchkins when he called & I answered. It started out with a "so if you had a situation involving such-and-such, and you ran into this type of device, what would you do?" - letting me figure out pretty quickly that it wasn't a "get dressed and run out the door" moment as I started to get a few more details so as to answer him properly. From the way the conversation was going I wasn't sure if this was a possible training scenario he was discussing, or something that had happened elsewhere he wanted more info on. But we worked through what he wanted to know in a few minutes as I walked him through the decision tree I'd use.

Then, he just got me to shaking my head... because he closed it up by saying "Thanks, I was just watching this show on TV, and they didn't do any of that and I wondered why."

Bless his heart, really, because I do appreciate that he wants to learn my side of things - so that when I am asking for stuff, or telling him what I am doing on a call, at least he has a grasp of why. But, you may reasonably presume that any "bomb squad actions" you see on television or in the movies are relatively distanced from reality, at least to the point that you don't need to call me at eight at night for an explanation...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Something to Ponder

Still fighting the crud here, but made it into work today and then court. Which gave me an observation I want to bring up for group discussion.

Today was one of the traffic dockets for this particular courtroom - three days a week, two sessions in the morning, three courtrooms. Just to give you some background. For statistics sake I'd say probably averages out to about 100-150 individual defendants per docket total, so call it 500 traffic cases per week for the jurisdiction just for a round number. Relatively typical for an area of this size.

I only had some minor stuff I was there for, so I got a lot of time to watch other officers testify as well as various defendants. Which gets us started on this post as a whole.

Today (I counted) in this one courtroom I saw ten people appear before the judge with a charge of driving on a suspended license or without a license for the fifth time or greater - meaning they had been convicted of doing the same thing in the past ten years at least four times prior.  In this state Driving on a Suspended License or With No Operator's License (2nd offense or greater) is a misdemeanor offense in this state, punishable by a fine of up to $1200 and up to a year in jail; the average fine being about $250-$500 and 5-30 days in jail depending on the offense number (with 5 days being a mandatory minimum). I've never seen a person get more than 3 months for Driving Suspended in my career but that's just me. Also, given the way such things work, you can expect a defendant to serve about half the actual time with good behavior and all that. Again, playing with our statistics I would call this a more or less average day for our community, so we can figure a good 50+ people a week showing up just for continuing to drive without a license.

So here's our dilemma.

On the one hand, we have a group of people who have shown a consistent willingness to flaunt the law. Despite numerous prior encounters for each individual, punishments including incarceration periods and significant fines, and very clear instructions from the courts that they are not permitted to drive, they continue to do so. They are ignoring the dictates of the judicial system, legislature, and society in general in terms of obeying the established rules of behavior. Instead, these people have more or less said "the rules don't apply to me and I'll do what I want despite the potential consequences."

On the other hand. here we have a (in general) victimless crime - none of the people I saw today was there because of an accident or someone else hurt by their driving. In fact, really the only people being hurt by these continued offenses (beyond the court system dealing with it) are the individuals themselves - many are now burdened by hundreds if not thousands in overdue fines and penalties, and have no realistic chance of paying these down or otherwise obtaining valid licenses. And, we live in a country in which the vast majority of places have no real effective public transportation system, thus making driving a necessity in order to work and survive.

What's the solution?

I mean, any one of us would argue that someone convicted of multiple homicides or assaults, someone who had faced numerous DUI convictions or the like, or any other recidivist repeat offender should face strict punishments and harsh penalties for such disregard. That one of the faults with our current society is the lack of consequences for actions, and that we need to be harsher on crime as a whole in order to fix things.

But for this? Is putting someone further into a hole they already can't get out of going to fix anything? Do we really need to be putting people in prolonged jail sentences for simply driving?

So I'd like a discussion - because I don't have an answer. More of the same obviously isn't the answer. And perhaps this can extrapolate into other areas that need fixing.

Oversight and Balance

Schneier has an excellent article here regarding oversight and accountability in intelligence, politics, law enforcement and the like.

As many have pointed out - when considering surveillance programs, laws, anti-terrorism measures or whatever, always consider the potential abuses if your worst foes had that power & then ask yourself if that's still an ability you want your government to have...

I laughed

Monday, January 19, 2015

In lieu of my own work

Fighting the death crud this weekend, which has led to some great sleep but not much else in terms of productivity or lucid thoughts.

So I want to provide some brief analysis regarding recent Islamic State actions in the Middle East:

Saudi general killed by ISIS.

ISIS Has Killed an Iranian General in Iraq.

John Robb has some initial analysis regarding the Saudi implications of the attack, most of which I agree with. The end goal of ISIS in terms of their Caliphate will certainly include the acquisition and control of sites such as Mecca should it become possible - not only for the legitimacy it grants their rule, but in terms of satisfying their own internal religious justifications. As to the current strength of the Saudi military and internal regime it is a tough call - they are certainly no paper tiger, however the regime has a significant internal weakness in both military and political standing, as has been demonstrated by numerous attacks over the years. However I am not sure this extends to the point of large-scale desertions in case of an invasion or other external threat. Also, I find the linkage to the Paris attacks one much more of coincidence than strategy.

Similarly, the Iranian implications are far from surprising. ISIS is Sunni-based, and has extensively persecuted Shia Muslims throughout their conquests. Meanwhile, Iran has a long history of promoting Shia interests and growth - so the two groups coming into conflict is rather inevitable. In this situation there are important elements on either side. To ISIS's strength the Shia are generally a minority in the regions they control, and there is a long history of Sunni persecution. Additionally it provides a local output to direct members anger and urges towards, and thus more immediate results than a nebulous Western target. On the other hand Iran has forty years of growing influence in the Lebanese and western Syrian Shia communities, which potentially puts ISIS pinned between two fronts in terms of open conflict.

The most important shared element of these two events is that it shows ISIS has grown beyond a simple insurgency confined to one region of Iraq and Syria. Rather, they have developed an intelligence collection and analysis ability (as demonstrated by the successful assassination missions), the ability to operate beyond the areas under their control, and long term planning. Many violent conflicts stall or fail when they become mired in localized goals and actions, in the desire to strike at any foe anywhere as opposed to strategic endeavors which support a more significant overall plan.

Similarly, this shows that at some level ISIS has a core leadership and functioning planning group - these acts are not typical of organizations led through a single cult of personality figure, but rather reflect the ability to direct resources and plan for the future. This is similarly reflected in the skill of the media marketing and information dissemination of the group.

All in all this reflects the growing strength of ISIS in the region, and that the group will continue to pose a threat unless significant military action is brought to bear upon them - an event which is both politically and logistically unlikely in the near future.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

It's a small world...

As part of work this week I got to spend some time at a TV series set in a contingency mode, just standing by while they worked with special effects. Nothing exciting came out of it, and I certainly don't have any famous encounters or anything to share from it - but that's not the point.

Instead, I told you that story to tell you this one...

One of the set crew ended up being a former Army SOF guy. We picked each other out of the crowd pretty quickly, started figuring out who we might know from each other's services, and before too long were sharing stories about similar experiences in similar places over the years. It was rather amusing and a nice break from some of the daily routine around here lately.

I just found it funny, as it made my wife laugh yet again at the ability I seem to have for this to occur. For being a relatively anti-social person, I seem to have an ability to run into these situations more than not. She's reached the point when I discuss being on a work trip or at some event and running into someone that I know or who has a common background all she says is "Well of course you did."

Now if I only could get some of these folks to live closer so I had people to talk with...