“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

Friday, December 26, 2014

I have been remiss...

In that I've neglected not only some of my reading, but a well-deserved recommendation.

For quite a bit now DaddyBear has thrown up bits from his "Tales of the Minivandians" upon his blog. In a nutshell (for the two of you who may not have already read them), they involve adapting the life of a modern man into a Robert E Howard type vignette short story. Entertaining, well done, and just generally posts I always loved reading when they came up.

Anyway, back in November he published it as both an ebook and a paperback, with some added material beyond what he'd done on the blog. Now, I dutifully picked it up as part of supporting a fellow blogger, but it had simply sat in my "to be read" pile in the Kindle app, along with the 100 other things waiting for the right time.

What with some holiday time off, and not sure what to read, I figured I'd go ahead and enjoy the book. And enjoy it I did. The original material was just as enjoyable as ever, and DaddyBear did a nice twist in the second half of the book taking things down a more "traditional" fantasy route while not losing the root of the tale. Quite simply it was a great read for smiles and entertainment, and I am sorry I left it waiting that long.

So, as part one, I apologize DaddyBear - I should have read this much sooner and promise to do so right away with the sequel you've already promised.

Part two, if you haven't already please pick it up on Kindle or hard copy - it's worth a read indeed.




Monday, December 15, 2014

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Annoying Irony

I find it bothersome that so many voices (on all sides of the political spectrum) who are ranting about how police need to quit acting as if everyone of certain races/beliefs/outlooks are "bad guys" are the same people who are shouting out that "all cops are fascists/racist/corrupt/abusive/whatever".

Wasn't there a guy who said something about judging people?

Past History is not a Justification

For all those out there examining police use of force incidents, and upon finding out that the suspect in question had a long and/or violent history - then saying "See, this proves the cops were in the right!" Stop. Just stop it. You're not helping.

In fact, you're wrong.

A lawful use of force incident is judged by the totality of the circumstances the officer knew (or should have known) at the time of the event - nothing more, nothing less. It means what is going on right then, and what is imminently foreseeable must be used to make those decisions. And, it does NOT mean that the past history of either the suspect or the officer are the key deciding factors (though both may be elements). The same holds true of non-law enforcement encounters - the facts of the moment are what matter, and what an individual must choose to act or not on.

Now yes, if the officer knows that a suspect has a history of violence that certainly may become an element in how things are addressed - but it doesn't grant a carte blanche permission to up the ante. Everything is dependent upon the actions and choices of that particular moment, and will be judged as such.

I've dealt with several arrests of people with long histories and statements of "I'll never go back to jail!" who ended up surrendering peacefully into custody when the time came. I've also had situations where someone with no violent tendencies flipped out at the wrong moment and the resulting situation turned messy.

And the same happens every single day across the nation. Think about the recent arrest of a suspected cop killer in Pennsylvania - they didn't gun him down, or abuse him - they took him into custody in a safe manner and he gets a day in court. Similarly, even suspected child molesters, terrorists, and other heinous people are given the opportunity when possible to surrender as opposed to an immediate leap to violent action. That's part of why we stress use of force training and judgement to officers throughout their career - to give them a solid basis to make these good decisions.

Now I'm not saying a person's past isn't a relevant factor - but it is more so in the lines of how they choose to face such situations. It is in the decisions they make and the actions they do or don't take when encountering police. This is where the violent tendencies, disregard for authority and other elements come into play - but it is on the offender's side, not the officers.

So please quit trying to solve the issue by using factors that aren't appropriate. It's over-simplifying an event which is anything but.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Drug thoughts

Nothing stunning or amazing. But helped the narcotics unit and the road guys out with a stop the other day, which resulted in a guy getting arrested. And it made me wonder how many people would do drugs if they realized that probably 90% of the time they spent part of their travels in someone's crotch or butt crack?

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Importance of Debate and Accepting Other Views

Over the past week there has been a growing, vocal debate as people take their respective sides of the current issue. Some would label it conservatives or traditionalists vs. liberal or modern outlooks. Others might go with old vs. young. Or whatever particular ideology seems to fit the viewer and narrative.

In either case, we pour over the video clips to support our position - picking out this sound bite or that still frame and debating how it supports the "right" view. Or running through the whole thing and arguing over what it means, how it is either a reflection of what we used to follow, or a radical departure from the original path.

And it seems like there's no middle ground - you're either on one side or the other. Any disagreement just leads to raised voices and more strident arguments. The voices of those originally involved are silent as online and real-world commentary continue to pour over the topic, without a reasonable end in sight. Even my own house hasn't been immune from little comments here and there, or a shared link mocking a different view.

Yes, it's really hard to believe all the stink a ninety second film trailer can cause...




Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Perspective

Having a callout for recovered military ordnance, and finding out you might be dealing with a live World War One chemical round has a way of focusing the events in your day...

Fortunately it was simply an explosive charge.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A companion link

Some other thoughts on the subject of military service and hero worship. Worth a read.

Cultural Competence and the Growing Split

There is a short but good article here on the challenges faced by non-military mental health providers in dealing with military patients. This certainly reflects things I've found in my own experience.

But it also reflects a change in our society as a whole. One that I think will lead to many other problems as time goes by.

There is a growing rift between the military and veterans and the rest of American society.

I don't mean this in terms of beliefs, or politics, or social mores (though all of those are certainly a factor). I mean simply in terms of common ground and the ability to relate, empathize and interact.

Without doing more research than I'm inclined to, I'll only take my observations back to the World War II generation - though my gut and history classes would lead me to think you could certainly take it further. When discussing the "Greatest Generation" it was not at all uncommon for a family to have one or more members who had served in the military in some fashion; and if they hadn't than there was certainly a neighbor or friend in the community who had. Which leads to shared experiences and common ground. To kids hearing war stories from a favorite uncle, young men asking for advice before embarking on their own journeys, or business transactions lubricated through veteran's conversations. It led to politicians, whether local or national, who had served in the uniform of the troops they were then going to order into harm's way. In short, "veterans" were a part of the communities they lived in, rather than something unusual. And, whether for a tour or a career, military service was seen as something to be proud of (and as a SERVICE) rather than something to hide.

Vietnam, the end of the draft, and the transition to a volunteer military force started to change that. An unpopular war, a shift in national outlook and other factors led to soldiers being viewed as "different" somehow. Whether labeled as misfits, killers, or rejects who weren't "smart enough" for the regular world, those who entered the military were no longer seen as serving the nation as a whole, but as tools of some nebulous political/industrial complex, as proxies for profit rather than protectors of the oppressed.

Fast forward to the modern age. The military, while still all-volunteer has become a truly separate entity in most people's lives. Fewer than 1% of the population are veterans these days, and even the Pentagon states that 70% of modern American youth would be ineligible for military service due to health, education, or criminal convictions. The political class? Completely disconnected - the barest fraction of our representatives have any military service, much less in time of war. And we have thus entered the era where to be a veteran is a strange thing, where the men and women who go into harm's way for our nation are seen as being an "unusual" group, and where our medical system needs special training in order to even relate to them as a whole.

Some of you may be disputing this - "My friends and I are all veterans," "There are plenty of people in my family/town/job who served," and the like. But these are clusters (I know, because I'm in one of them). Certain professions, rural communities, and yes, even family traditions are represented more heavily amongst veterans than others. In some cases this is because a tradition of service remains, in others it is due to an affinity between career paths. But, I challenge you to go to a major city and conduct the same survey - you'll find the percentages reflect what I am discussing.

This is sad and this is dangerous. It is sad because we have a complete disconnect - the men and women who are sacrificing their years, their bodies and their lives for a nation come home to a place which they no longer relate to. And the communities which receive them are challenged to interact with a group they cannot understand. The politicians spend the lives of these troops, they cut back on equipment, training and benefits for the people who protect our nation, all without the slightest concept of who these service members are.

And it is dangerous, because a military which sees itself as separate from the people, as unappreciated or unwanted, is a military capable of acts against the society they are meant to preserve. Capable of being exploited by generals or politicians or internal drives to "make things right." Which also goes against the very foundations of our nation, and holds the potential for vast abuse.

Do I have the perfect solution? Of course not. But Heinlein's thoughts on service connected to citizenship certainly provide an option.

Either way we owe it to our warriors and to ourselves to find the common ground again, to bring these men and women home and let them truly feel at home. To understand the concept of sacrifice for a greater good, and a chance at peace when it is done.

***

Centurions were the guardians of Rome. At the height of the Roman Republic there were over five thousand qualified Roman Centurions in the Legions. To be a Centurion required that, in a mostly illiterate society, one be able to read and write clearly, to be able to convey and create orders, to be capable of not only performing every skill of a Roman soldier but teach every skill of a Roman soldier.

Becoming a Centurion required intense physical ability, courage beyond the norm, years of sacrifice and a total devotion to the philosophy which was Rome.

When Rome fell to barbarian invaders, there were less than five hundred qualified Centurions. Not because Rome had fewer people but because it had fewer willing to make the sacrifices. And the last Centurions left their shields in the heather and took a barbarian bride…



- John Ringo

Monday, November 24, 2014

House Rules

I watch very very little network television, due to a dislike of the medium. However, once in a while I do get caught up watching a show that my wife enjoys.

We also have a standing house rule that during movies or TV shows I'm NOT allowed to comment on bomb techniques, tactical procedures, or the like - because according to my wife at times the "suspension of belief" element seems to elude me.

Which explains why I got "That Look" tonight during a show when I started talking to the bad guy on screen saying "Oh yes, I DREAM of someone doing that, please gift wrap solving your little bomb problem for me!"

Yes, there are issues in my head....

Music Monday

I always thought you could weave a heck of a novel out of these two songs:










Unfortunately these days I fear it would have too many modern parallels.





Sunday, November 16, 2014

Home Decorating

Recently we went to a social get-together at a friend's house, kids and adults both enjoying themselves. It was a rather nice house in a good neighborhood, and it took me a little bit to figure out why it just didn't feel "right" to me.

There weren't any books.

No bookshelves, no partially read novels lying on an end table, not even a side room which had the family library. With the exception of a handful of school books it was otherwise a literary desert.

Now, please don't take this as a criticism of the people or place - it's nothing of the sort. It just reflects what I've grown used to and comfortable with in my own life.

Ever since I was young I was a reader. My mother kept books around the house, family friends had large libraries, trips to the bookstore and the library were frequent and quite simply it became the norm. Even when I was in the military I remember the majority of my personal possessions being books when I would move from one duty station to another.

I suppose it's only natural that one of the qualities which made my wife special is that she reads as well. Every room in our own house has at least one bookshelf, and when we go through those periodic purges of excess items in the home the books are always the hardest to sort through. Again, it's no surprise our children have taken the love of the written word into their own hearts as well.

Which explains why a house without books just doesn't feel "right" to me - because it's just an empty structure up until then. Sort of like being in one of those model or demo homes with all the furniture and accoutrements designed to show it off, but lacking that spark of life inside. The same as I have trouble relating to people don't read books at all, because there's just that little bit of something not in common with them.

I'd rather have a place cluttered with books and comfortable than the cleanest mansion in the world without a page in sight.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day

For those who served, no matter the branch, field, or length of time - thank you. It was an honor and a privilege to serve beside you. Your sacrifices have helped not only this nation but others worldwide, and may your time never be forgotten.

To those who read this, please take a moment today and express your appreciation for those family, friends, or acquaintances today who wore our nation's uniform. It means a lot just to hear those words.

If you have the chance, the following organizations are worthy of your funds - they help the veterans, families and survivors of our recent conflicts. I can speak personally as to the good things they have done for my own family, purely out of their generosity.

Wounded Warrior Project

Wounded EOD Warrior Foundation


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Public Issues

One of the facts of working on a bomb squad is that the vast majority of our calls are false alarms - a simple abandoned bag, a package sent to the wrong location or whatever. While it's somewhat of a downer in terms of not dealing with live stuff, that's the nature of the beast. However, it also is a fact that we still have to treat EVERY call as if it IS live - because as soon as you get complacent thinking "oh, this is just another nothing incident" it will end up biting you. 

What this means is that, once we get on scene, we treat things very seriously - from controlling scene and traffic access, to possible evacuations, to the whole robot/bomb suit/special equipment game. This tends to be time consuming, and disruptive and everything else. Because my concern is the safety of me, the community, the other officers and everything else - not whether or not this is "convenient" to everything else around. 

Usually everyone is pretty understanding of this and realizes why we do things. But this past week we had Captain Sarcasm on board - because we had to block off the entrance to his commercial area in order to deal with a suspect package, and he just couldn't see all the fuss going on for what ended up being nothing. So, while I spent an hour resolving this situation, worrying about potential risks and countermeasures in my head, and everything else involved, he spent his time on the sidelines yelling out smart-assed comments, suggestions, and even going so far as to complain to the patrol supervisor on scene about all of this "nonsense." 

Fortunately for my temper and my career I was able to get things done and leave in a different direction, so that my mouth didn't add to the problem in a direct encounter...

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Deterrence?

So earlier this year I encountered a "client" at work, who I had to arrest for a DUI (second in less than a year), as well as some felony charges and other bits and pieces - all well-deserved, and very open and shut. To the point of the defense attorney completely waived my appearance and plead out the case out as opposed to fighting things. This is on top of a history of several other events and convictions, including suspended time and probation currently active.

And it gets to sentencing - where she gets a grand total of four months to serve.

Now, I'm not saying that this was the crime of the century, and I'm the first to agree that our prisons have a lot of folks in them who probably shouldn't be.

But every one of these offenses was a blatant "I don't care about the law" - not a mere technicality, not a regulatory infraction, but conscious decisions to act recklessly, ignore court orders and defraud others. For this she gets basically a slap on the wrist, an inconvenience for a few months, and back out to do as she will again.

The whole point of jail time is deterrence - it's a "time out" or "grounding" for grown ups, a consequence for choosing to act against society's chosen dictates and a display for the individual as well as society as a whole that there is a price to pay for acting in such manner. Should we remove such consequences, then what is the point of attempting to enforce such laws? If we've decided that the punishments established by the legislature and public are excessive, and that our judicial system needs to minimize things "for the good of society" then we've weakened one of the pillars of our political system. If we've eliminated the deterrence of punishments then we have also removed the incentive to obey the laws of society.

I think events like this are part of why so many have lost faith in the system.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Gaming the system

This is just an initial rant, not sure if I'll keep it up or not, but felt like writing.

So today we had one of our senior officers retire due to "PTSD." And I use the parenthesis for a reason, as I'll discuss. A relatively senior guy, has worked the road his whole career, and has a reputation (which I can personally vouch for) for laziness and attempts to work the system to his benefit whenever possible.

The claimed issue stems from a suicide a year ago where this officer was on the periphery - no direct interaction or witnessing of events, and only minor involvement in the aftermath. But according to him it's enough he needs to leave the job. Oh, and despite the fact I know of uglier calls he's been on over the years.

Now - before anyone lectures - I of all people know that PTS affects different people in different ways, and what is one person's trigger may mean nothing to another.

And, maybe I'm a bit cynical because of my own experiences.

But this one just stinks to me, based on knowing him and everything else going on. And it pisses me off.

I'm all for people who are bothered by events getting the help, assistance and everything else they need. And, I certainly don't want someone who can't cope anymore working a dangerous job with themselves and others at risk.

This screams of "faker" though, and I trust my gut on it - of using the system to get a medical retirement on something they can't prove "doesn't" exist, so the agency takes the easy way out in liability and time. And, every single person knows that "So-and-so retired from PTSD from this call." and rolls their eyes.

It bugs me because this is just as bad as the label for PTSD sufferers as "just waiting to snap," so everyone is scared to hire or be around them for this supposed violence waiting to happen. Instead this is the old "malingerer who is using a psych excuse to get out of doing stuff or to get a pension." Which in some ways makes things even worse - because, as an invisible illness PTSD like so many other similar ailments, already faces an uphill battle for acceptance and recognition. And events like this make it even harder for those needing treatment and help to make that choice, because they don't want to be labeled as "that guy" - for a type A personality, being called a slacker is far more degrading than being labeled as violent or dangerous any day of the week.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe this was the event that made him have some issues and not feel safe or comfortable anymore, and I'm wrong to judge. But unfortunately I'm afraid I'm not, and this will serve as another example of those things which make it hard for those people who really are suffering to get the recognition and aid they need.




Wednesday, September 3, 2014

For any vets out there having a tough time right now.

I know that the situation in Iraq is getting in my head, and that I can't be the only one.

And that we're all frustrated, and second guessing things in not only our lives but the world as a whole.

I'm not saying I agree with every word she says in this article, but it's something very important for us all to think about. Take a second and read it, please.

Stop Letting ISIS Control You

And, I will please ask my readers to share this link around - I feel it's something we need to share as a community.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ferguson, MO

I don't have anything magical to add in analysis of the situation or the following events, so move on if that's your concern.

However, as a law enforcement officer, I do have two observations which have resurfaced from the whole thing:

- #1 - yet again, this is why I see the need for cameras in every patrol vehicle (if not body mounted). While they will never be 100%, it certainly provides an irrefutable and open image of events such as this. Having been involved in a false excessive force allegation myself, I can certainly say I WISHED that I had video of the event - it would have solved things much more quickly. Yes, video is subject to interpretation, but much less so than the current "he said/he said" situation.

Furthermore, as police in this nation we SHOULD be open and accountable. I cannot think of a single police use of force (particularly lethal force) situation where I wouldn't be willing to have the event exposed and explained and subject to public scrutiny - we are charged by society with the trust to do such acts, so we owe it to the same society to openly display when such force is used. Now, before anyone gets on the "tactics and officer safety" bandwagon - I've done enough entries and other things in my time to feel confident in saying that we can certainly provide the community and the government oversight with video, audio, etc of lethal force events without displaying any sensitive tactics or procedures that got us there.

And, quite frankly, call me jaded - but any officer arguing against such is probably one who I have questions about anyway.

#2 - the other observation has to stem from my experiences, and thus being able to relate to what the officer involved is dealing with now. Things like this hit the press and take on a life of their own. And, due to department policies, and more importantly sound legal advice, we have to stay quiet. Should you be involved in an incident as an officer (or a civilian in a deadly force situation) any competent lawyer will immediately tell you to keep your mouth shut. Not saying you don't cooperate with the investigation, or deal with any internal affairs or other issues - but you DO NOT make press statements as to what happened, why you did/did not do certain things or in any way respond to the allegations. If anything is done regarding that it is through media statements by the department, or by a private attorney who will use a lot of words but say very little. Because they realize that anything said will be pre-interpreted prior to any court case which adjudicates based on facts.

Meanwhile, the other side has no such burden - they will freely impugn your character, the events in question, your motivations, and everything else. And, emboldened by your silence, the accusations become then that "they must know it's true" or "they're hiding something."  Every press conference tailor-made to highlight the "suffering" of the other side, and the lack of a response viewed as "the thin blue line standing firm to protect their own."

It sucks. There's no other way to put it.

And, that's not even counting the civil risk - even if everything is clear criminally, you can bet on a lawsuit. Meaning once again you and your family are under the pressure. You can't apply for a house or other loan with any success. You have even more attorney and court appearances, and they are FAR more hostile and accusatory. Facing the risk of your employer choosing not to fight it, leaving you potentially liable to lose everything you own based on a jury's sympathies. Not that I'm saying you shouldn't be responsible if you use force wrongly (I advocate harsh and permanent sanctions for such) - but even if you are in the right and cleared you will get sued, I can say from personal experience.

And no matter what, it changes you, and your relationship with the community and your profession and your peers. Because, no matter what happens in court, no matter how you may be vindicated, how your actions are shown as appropriate and just and reasonable, it doesn't change things. There isn't a press conference to say "Ooops, we jumped to conclusions."  If anything, it is a news release implying that someone "got off" on the allegations, or the system was rigged - because that all fits the narrative. But 99% of the time it isn't even that - the media storm blows over, court comes and goes, and you're left with knowing that you were in the right, but you can never reclaim that little bit of your dignity from the public circus. Knowing that forever after some attorney can bring up the "weren't you accused of XYZ before officer????"

I honestly don't know what happened in Missouri. I don't know which side is "more" right in the case, because I wasn't there and right now the media monster on either side is spinning like a top.

But, I do know that two lives will never ever be the same because of it - one is dead, and one has effectively ended any chance of living in that community again. And that we, as a society and a profession, can figure out a better way to manage the aftermath of such events. We owe it to ourselves as professionals to be accountable and open and fair in our dealings. We owe it to our citizens to show we are worthy of the trust placed in us, and exercising it appropriately. And, most importantly, we owe it to the people involved, so that lives and reputations are not destroyed on hearsay and allegations, and instead face only the light of truth as to what occurred.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

A thought...

If you're teaching banjo and the student has trouble with tempo, would you then use a rural gnome???


The jokes are free - you get what you pay for!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Are we unable to learn?

I would have thought that after 12 years of counter-insurgency warfare against the same general foe, that at least ONE person at the Pentagon would have learned how to conduct such operations.

Instead, regarding the recent round of airstrikes in Iraq, I read that the admitted view is "Well, this won't affect their capabilities much, but it will show them we're serious and how!"

Which does not work in the real world.

Effective military force boils down to one of two options:

#1 - a show of force/decisive strike or other limited action; the proverbial "shot across the bow" which informs a foe as to precisely where a line is drawn, and demonstrates the ability and will to enforce said limitation.

or

#2 - the complete and total use of said force, either as a follow-on to the first option, or when no other alternative is available, and conducted until one of the two sides capitulates or is unable to proceed further (or no longer exists).

Anything outside of one of these two options is mere theater, and will accomplish nothing.

In fact, given the Arab world and mindset, it will actually make things worse. That's in no way a racial or prejudiced statement, it's an understanding of the culture based on over two decades of dealing with it. Don't think I'm right? Look at events since 1947 as demonstrations - those nations and times when "limited actions," "retaliatory strikes," or other euphemisms have been used have universally failed; whereas on the occasions warfare has been treated as the serious business it is, and resources committed fully, have resulted in not only military victories but changes in the status quo. In fact, we've reinforced this cultural ideal through these very actions, showing time and again that "the infidel" will never stay around for the long haul, that we are shallow and weak and too concerned with what the latest trend is to fight the long fight.

All we are doing right now with "limited air strikes" is setting the scene for failure again. It is Lebanon. Iran. Somalia. Libya. Syria. All repeated as examples of "America has no stomach for the fight, see what happens? Their bombs are ineffective and we are still here!" Our foes know it, and more importantly, the masses know it (and are afraid).

Because right now it is abundantly clear that we aren't able or willing to get back in the fight. That, once things get messy enough, or prolonged enough, or the ratings go south, we will be gone in the night, and they will be left to deal with the consequences.

And it sickens me right now, more than I can possibly describe. It bothers me that I have friends who died for apparently nothing, that thousands of us left parts of our lives, our bodies, and our souls in those hells, never to be reclaimed - and that the powers-that-be could care less for such sacrifice. It kills me to see innocent children, women, and men tortured, killed, and living in terror of what may come next, all for the fault of being born into the wrong tribe or sect or belief system. To see pictures, to hear stories, to understand what is happening and realizing it's only the merest surface image of true events. Knowing that there is no hope for a peaceful resolution, for simple coexistence to occur - that instead, things will continue to spiral into darkness until the region fragments even more than it already has; and that worst case, it will spread into a greater conflict in other nations.

We could solve this. I don't mean just the United States, I mean the world community as a whole. But we won't. It's not politically expedient. It's not socially correct to enforce our norms upon others. Most importantly, the average person in the world has lost the concept that there are some evils worth fighting til the last breath, worth sacrificing for, worth joining together to conquer and eliminate.

Instead, we'll keep at this pretense of action - just like we did in Rwanda, in Bosnia and Kosovo, and in countless other places. They'll shake their heads and "tsk tsk, such a shame, but at least we tried." at all the right gatherings.

Because they never see the faces, or realize it's actual people dying - it's not a news story done in 30 seconds.

I fear this is the start of the scream that civilizations make as they die....

***

The Second Coming
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

- W. B. Yeats

Monday, June 23, 2014

Gear

Not for the first time, I've been asked why I don't do more gear reviews or such on the blog. There's a couple of reasons for this:

- As Tam and others have noted, once you start reviewing stuff (particularly when it's provided for you) then there is a tendency to flavor your work towards the provider - take the King's coin, do the King's bidding as it were. There are enough magazines, websites and other professionals that can handle that, so no need for me to throw my 1/2 cent in.

- Gear is constantly evolving, and what was yesterday's cutting edge is tomorrow's antique. With few exceptions the things I coveted or used ten years ago aren't even in my inventory anymore, much less the "go-to" item.

- I buy things based upon my needs, mission profile and skill set. I work in a specialized field in law enforcement, and what I expect and need my equipment to do is different than what a guy in Afghanistan, or a citizen carrying concealed on the street in Dallas might need. So, what I may view as a "feature" in an item might be a liability to someone else, or what I might view as a critical issue might not even surface on someone else's radar.

- Tools in a toolbox. A lot of stuff at certain levels is interchangeable, particularly if you have trained well. You do train, right? So if you learn how to do whatever it is right with the basics, then you don't rely on your gear to carry you through - instead you use it to enhance or simplify things when the time comes. Elegance in the basics (a lesson I still need a lot of work on).

- A couple of the companies/brands I deal with are very low profile, and like it that way. Who am I to boost their presence if they don't want it?

So, rather than specific brands or items, I'll just take a few moments to discuss some things I think are vital in choices for gear, no matter what your end-use:

- Consistency and reliability. You should be able to know what the item will do from the first use to the last, and to expect the same level of performance throughout. If you can't trust it to do the job time to find a replacement.

- Durability. Within the limits of the item in question, it should last for a decent period. This is where the "buy once, cry once" theory comes into play - you're better off spending more for the best product you can afford, knowing it will last. Buying cheap usually leads to regrets and replacement.

- Company integrity. No matter what you buy, occasionally things fail. Or other issues develop. Companies that stand behind their products and take care of these issues are worth their weight in gold. Poor customer service will lose my business no matter what the level of quality you provide.

- Form follows function. As I get older, and (hopefully) wiser, I'm drawn less by the "this does and has everything" and more by the appreciation of a simple, elegant solution to a problem in a straightforward manner.

- While I'm not fully into the "ultralight/minimalist" camp of things, I've found frequently over the past few years that the products manufactured for the alpine/minimalist side do tend to be better constructed and thought out than the more mass-market versions.

So, those are my thoughts in general. Perhaps I might dabble more in discussing certain lines or product categories as a whole if there is interest, or I'll stick with what I know and be quiet. :D

Thursday, June 19, 2014

OPSEC, once more for the slow kids

While this is not a new trend, the acceleration over the past few years has been horrible.

Once upon a time, should a military unit associated with "covert" activities conduct a successful operation, no one knew - or if they did, it was attributed to a larger unit, or to the "military" as a whole.

As for the members, you quietly went your way, kept your mouth shut and maybe talked about things at work with people who were in the same places. A trophy or memento might go up in a team room, but certainly not with any big plaque or credit to things.

Because that was part of the job. And because it kept things easier for the next trip downrange, since the bad guys didn't know when, where or how the good guys worked.

But nowadays, heck, the helo engines aren't even cool before someone in D.C. is discussing the operation, who did what, naming units and players and the like.

Shut up people. You're putting people and families at risk. You're jeopardizing future operations. And you aren't accomplishing a single thing except looking dumb with your "look who I have working for me" crap.

Take a page from the British and the Israelis. And quit talking out of school.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Current Events

I asked a Vietnam era vet friend today if this is what guys felt like in April '75. His response was "Pretty much exactly the same."

The world's in a handbasket, and they have cut the rope. I can't decide whether to be frustrated or concerned anymore.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Lessons Learned

Had a smile to myself today (in private) at one of the many lessons the military taught me which I still carry to this day. In that it is possible to use physical exertion to re-direct a wayward young boy back towards the right path in a way that involves no violence, abuse, belittling, or other adverse means - instead it just serves to bring some excess energy towards improving the body and the mind while explaining certain realities of life to a young man.

It's funny how some push-ups and calisthenics can be so much more effective than yelling or spanking or grounding ever would be.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Apparently I've been labeled again

So a momentary conversation tonight, which then drifted into certain TV shows and their roots etc. - the wife made this comment:

"Oh, if it didn't have just one season you're just not interested..."

It's not my fault I have better taste than the networks!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

For those having trouble keeping score

We just established that we'd gladly trade Darth Vader, the plans for the Death Star and a controlling interest in Mos Eisley for Porkins the fat X-wing pilot.

Things Normal People Don't Say

While doing some cleaning and sorting this morning:

"Now, why did I leave a smoke grenade in that bag again?"

Yes, we're a bit... different... around these parts.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Great advice

Commencement speeches are traditionally motivational yet forgotten rapidly. This one by Admiral McRaven will hopefully stand the test of time. I won't diminish his words with my own, simply suggest you read at the link.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Operation "Choke Point"

I don't like commenting on politics or government all the time, I really don't - but the bastards keep doing stuff that pretty much makes me... which brings me to this in our latest bit.

Many of you may have seen bits and pieces in the news over the last year (particularly the last few weeks) about businesses having their accounts inexplicably closed by banks - with no valid reasons given, or with statements that their "type" of business wasn't appropriate. At first this was generally attributed to overzealous political leanings of one sort or another in a corporate leadership, but now it looks to be something more.

Enter the Federal government - under Operation "Choke Point" the Department of Justice and FDIC has taken it upon themselves to drive certain industries under by making it impossible for them to do financial business in the country. In other words, instead of letting legislation and the legal system accomplish what they want, your "betters" in Washington are once again ruling by decree. The government's assertion being that such businesses are "high risk" for criminal activity or other nefarious purposes, or are engaged in fraudulent behavior, and that by putting pressure upon banks and financial institutions to not do business with them it will indirectly shut down such horrible practices. One of the major "Bad Guys" in this has been Chase Bank, which has apparently acted with glee to enforce such dictats from above. What sort of businesses are covered by this approach? Let's see:


  • Ammunition Sales
  • Cable Box De-scramblers
  • Coin Dealers
  • Credit Card Schemes
  • Credit Repair Services
  • Dating Services
  • Debt Consolidation Scams
  • Drug Paraphernalia
  • Escort Services
  • Firearms Sales
  • Fireworks Sales
  • Get Rich Products
  • Government Grants
  • Home-Based Charities
  • Life-Time Guarantees
  • Life-Time Memberships
  • Lottery Sales
  • Mailing Lists/Personal Info
  • Money Transfer Networks
  • On-line Gambling
  • PayDay Loans
  • Pharmaceutical Sales
  • Ponzi Schemes
  • Pornography
  • Pyramid-Type Sales
  • Racist Materials
  • Surveillance Equipment
  • Telemarketing
  • Tobacco Sales
  • Travel Clubs



On the surface one might see elements of this that certainly are distasteful, if not repellant. On the other hand, for the conspiracy minded, there certainly are a fair number of "prepper" favorites on this list. But, with few exceptions, the vast majority of these industries have a key element in common no matter the political spectrum - THEY ARE LEGAL. They involve acts, behaviors, interactions, or purchases that the citizens, the legislature, and the courts have all deemed are publicly acceptable (even though some have restrictions and regulations upon the participants). Yet, by way of regulatory fiat, the determination has been made that if such things can't be eliminated by political means they will be done so administratively. 

So who is this hurting? It's hurting small and large businesses of many types - from gun manufacturers and distributors, to soft-core models, to "unapproved" small charities and the like. It's hurting companies and groups that indirectly might do business with some of these elements, particularly when they lose the ability to process transactions online or through a bank card (which is the vast majority of all financial traffic these days). And it's hurting the banking industry, both in lost revenue and in the burdens of dealing with the federal issues. A couple of articles are here and here. I fully encourage you to Google more and look at this - because pretty much every side of the political and social spectrum is affected. You may have your own opinions on these varied industries, which is certainly your prerogative and privilege. But it has reached the point now of getting some Congressional attention asking what is going on.

But if it can be done to these industries, it can by extension be done to others. After all, we've seen similar "regulatory" efforts used in attempts to address home businesses, home schools, small farms and seed providers, publishers and ad nauseum. And what happens when it's something you do support? 

Because this is a reflection of a government problem for the past fifty years - the growth of the bureaucrat and rule by administration. The political class as well as special interest groups have learned that if you can't get the public support to push something through Congress, all you have to do is lobby the right agency and bury it in the Federal code somewhere. It demonstrates once again the belief amongst far too many in government, whether elected or appointed, that they "know better" than the common people, and thus must make decisions for our own good. That yet again another nameless, faceless cog in the machine is going to rubber-stamp form T93-A and tell you what is right and wrong. And this is the very antithesis of what we as a nation are supposed to be. 

And Chase? Quislings. Because apparently they have no problem at all taking the "right" kinds of dirty money - be it illegally foreclosing on military families, doing business with prohibited nations, or mortgage fraud on an epic scale -  but apparently all that is piddling compared to doing the bidding of the suits. So, they certainly won't see any of my money again - nor will I support those who do business with them. I'm sure there are other banks complicit in this whole mess as well, and they will make my list as it comes to light. 

Like I said, I certainly don't want this to become a political blog. Yet if we don't as a nation start holding the government accountable for such deeds, then the only alternative will be the government holding us accountable to a dictated standard. And that will not do. 

Like the man said, I aim to misbehave. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Things I Have to Deal With

In the latest episode of "How idiots make my job harder:"

Had some citizens receive what they felt was a suspect item in the mail yesterday - happens enough, usually nothing to it but still have to treat things seriously. Well, they decided to bring it to police headquarters to get looked at. Not the smartest idea, but that's not our winner.

Nope, the genius was the desk person on duty. Who had them bring it inside and sit with it in the lobby. Of. the. Occupied. Building. while waiting for me to show up and clear things.

As I've said before, the bad part is that these kind of people will actually breed...

Saturday, April 19, 2014

I think I broke her.

Yes, it's been a prolonged absence - life does that. But school is done now, and perhaps, just perhaps, I can write for myself again.

**

So, as part of the whole "getting better" thing I did some group therapy work. There's good and bad to it, and I won't bore you or go into my judgments - it is what it is. But there are certainly moments.

During one session we had a certain female psych sitting in with the other two "regular" docs. Of note, one of the regulars is a good psych, lots of experience in the field - the other is a prior military shrink in a combat zone, and knows some people I know, so we have related well in out of session discussions. Just one of those things. Anyway, Little Miss Bubbly sat in on a few sessions before this - nothing "bad" about her, but she is definitely all positive outlook, look at the butterflies, let's just talk everything out sort of person.

Well the session that day had gotten into some dark spots for a few guys that I could read, though it was obvious she was missing it. The other two were letting her run as long as things didn't get ugly, but I was getting kind of annoyed at the fact she didn't grasp some fundamental differences in what she was dealing with. Then this moment took place...

We somehow got into discussing tools in terms of mental/emotional/physical responses - what the individual is capable of in terms of dealing with a particular stimulus/event/incident. And, I'll preface this with noting she had fallen into the mistake that it seems a lot of people do of equating certain backgrounds with ignorance or a lack of intelligence - even though she was bubbly she definitely talked down to people. Which didn't help my mood. So I told her about tools.

The point I made was this. I asked her what she might do if one of us made her mad - mad her so angry she couldn't see straight, hit at the core of her being, just straight out pissed her off beyond words? Then I explained oh yes, she might yell, she might throw something, she might even hit someone if she got pissed off enough. That she could throw a great little tantrum at the injustice of it all and truly vent.

Well, I'd sunk the bait, but then I set the hook.

In a very calm voice I explained to her that every person in that room had moved past that. We didn't "hold in our emotions because we were afraid of what we might do." We held them in because we knew what we could do. Big difference. Because everyone in that group knew how to take a life. I don't mean some theoretically concept, I mean we knew the sights and the sounds and the smells involved in a person's final moments. We knew that, if pushed to the wrong point, we could do what was needed. I told her I had a tool in my toolbox that I hoped she never, ever would - that I could kill a person. That my toolbox extended beyond anger, beyond even seeing the person as themselves, and moved into targets and options and reactions. And, that unless you are completely broken, once you've used that tool for good or bad you are forever changed. It doesn't mean you're broken, or evil, or wrong, or any of that other bullshit. But once you realize how easy it is to deal with mortality, you never look at life the same. And that's why so many combat veterans have that distance - because it's not that we're afraid we might snap, or somehow lose it - it's just that we know what happens on that edge, and we know to avoid it unless need be.

It was a strange thing saying it. Because it was almost like I could see my words hitting her like punches - I don't think she'd ever thought of it that way. Again, I'm not saying she's a bad person, and I know she means well - but to her death and killing are an amorphous concept. The actors get up after the directors call cut, and brush off the dust. The video game hits a save point and you end it. You close the book and move to another. She has never, ever conceptualized the fact that there are men and women in this world who have lived this as a part of their day to day existence, and then have to deal with the ways it changes you for good and bad in the aftermath. I could see and sense the reactions of the other vets in the room, and knew without asking that they agreed.

And parts of it reminded me of comments from my wife and others over the years. How it's not just my lack of extreme emotions, but that when I get angry, really upset it's not that I yell or rage or anything - it's that I go to a very cold, distant place where "I" am no longer there. Because I recognize this as the place I work from in these situations, where everything is based with dealing with the threats of the moment as opposed to the emotions of the "normal" world.

Well, that was the end of that session, and beyond sharing it with my wife I didn't think much more about it. But I did laugh this week - I was on an unrelated visit to the VA and dropped in to chat with the prior service psych about some other stuff. We were bs'ing and laughing and he mentioned it as well, because he said that he also noticed the way it affected her - that it was stunningly obvious she had never ever considered life in those terms, and wasn't sure how to deal with it. We shared a laugh or two about it for a moment and moved on to other thoughts.

But it also made me think about a fundamental problem we have in helping combat veterans adjust back to "normal" life in this country - the fact that the vast majority of the people attempting to do so have no common basis of experience with which to communicate. I suppose the closest I could relate would be in thinking about rape victims, and how someone who has never been through that will never have the common ground - not equating combat with rape by any means, but just as a level of internal change. That maybe instead of throwing a room full of PhD's at the problem, we'd be better served as a society with sitting them down with other people who've seen the elephant and can possibly relate on that level. Because in the modern world we have fewer of the warrior caste than ever, and perhaps we need to do a better job of sitting around the campfire and sharing our stories.

Maybe that will help us all in ways they never will.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Concepts

There should be a description/title for the law which says if you're in a rush to get someplace you will hit every red light or be behind every slow driver the whole way, but if you're just kind of wandering about with no time limit it will be smooth traffic the whole way.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Dear Android Auto-Correct

You may rest assured that "ducking" is never the word I intended to type.

Just trying to save us both some time.