Sunday, August 11, 2019

A Clock on My Desk

.. retiring from your primary career is not merely an act of ending, but, more opportunistically and relevant, an act of commencement and of the promise of a meaningful future.
Alan Spector, After the Cheering Stops

I'm not obsessed with retirement.

Okay, I said it. But, as I write these words a small clock stares back - one hundred thirty nine days, ten hours and change.

We've done the money prep, the social prep and had a meeting with someone who, with all of her dignity intact, calls herself a "shrink." My employer knows, my coworkers are getting the word... Now all that has to happen is for the date to arrive.

The common question to answer, both for myself and others, is - "What are you going to do?"


I get up early every morning as a matter of course, so sleeping in would only feel weird. There are a million things to do around the house, but the place was built in 1970 - there is always something to do around the house. We're in the pipeline for seeing the grandkids already.

So, with my humility in full swing (and knowing this is mostly for me) here is a list of things, in no particular order:

1. Writing. In addition to finishing the novel I'm still working on, I've never really gotten the chance to market what I've already written. That not only entails bugging people I know to buy something, it means a broader appeal, to find others who do not know that I write novels. I have a web site that has been dormant, a blog I haven't been especially attentive to and if I can get more diligent, it might turn into,

2. A part-time job. I'd love to write for a living, but that is entirely up to you! Amazon seems always to be hiring part time (shift work - yuck), which would be spent more likely than not on travel. I've been a teacher in the past, so a classroom assignment would be possible, since I'm a hideous on line teacher. As for law work - part time law work is 40 hours a week. Working to pay for,

3. Travel. Yup. We won't do anything crazy, since the dogs miss us whenever we are away. Yes, that reference is done intentionally. There are a lot of places we want to go, things we want to see (Lords cricket grounds in London, eg.). Travel is definitely on our list, but then,

4. Cycling. Nearly five years of a largely sedentary assignment has made me long to ride, ride, ride. Riding partners, are you listening?

A new phase, new purpose. One hundred thirty nine days, nine hours...

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

All The Elbows in the Room

"We are aware of the problem of handgun violence in this country, and we take seriously the concerns raised by the many amici who believe that prohibition of handgun ownership is a solution. The Constitution leaves the District of Columbia a variety of tools for combating that problem, including some measures regulating handguns, see supra, at 54–55, and n. 26. But the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table. These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home. Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem. That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct." Concluding paragraph, majority opinion of Justice Scalia, District of Columbia v. Heller (2008).

"These are bad guys. Air should be illegal for them to possess." A drug enforcement officer quoted by author PJ O'Rourke. A Parliament of Whores (1991).

More mass shootings, and the only thing moving faster than the bullets fired by the murderers are politicians racing for microphones, elbowing each other out of the way as they go. Looking for an advantage, anything that will help their career along. Saying whatever must be said, to signal whatever must be signaled.

"I'm against mass murder, so I spoke out in favor of gun control. Elect me and I'll continue to be against mass murder and speak out. I'll even advocate passing a law...against mass murder. Or, guns. Let's ban guns!"

Well, aren't you special.

Extremists on both sides of this - I really hesitate to call it a debate - are reading the wrong blog. Go, now. If you think a total gun ban is the answer, or if you think the words "shall not be abridged" is a blanket proscription to sensible gun control laws... You won't learn a damn thing here. 

For those who have stayed, this isn't going to take long. It's a common lament for me, one I've addressed time and again. That is - no one with any political advantage to gain is serious about curbing gun violence.

The reaction after the latest shooting is predictable as a sunrise. "It's (fill in the blank with the politician you love to hate)'s fault. They did nothing, except stir up hate and discontent."

Fault? It's the guy lugging an AK-47 into a garlic festival. It's the asshole wearing ear protection (seriously?!) while he uses his AK to kill people in a store. It's a guy who shows up in a bar wearing body armor. It's two of the three who start shooting with law enforcement officers already present on scene. It's the shooter's fault. They of the twisted hatreds, the animosity against "them," whoever they are.

But, ask yourself. When was the last time you said to a friend "Wow, that's pretty extreme. Are you doing okay? You're talking about human beings, not objects worthy of scorn."

It is possible to argue a policy position ("unregulated, unfettered immigration is bad public policy") without calling desperate men and women "Invaders." It is possible to question how diligently government has respected human decency in a chaotic situation without branding empathetic professionals "Nazis running concentration camps."

And it is possible for everyone of good will to say that white supremacists are racists. Some of them are violent, dangerous people. There is reason to believe some are radicalized toward violence in an organized, purposeful fashion. That's what they do. It isn't just for radical Islamists.

This is not a new problem, but it occurs in a new era. The FBI is tasked with investigating these kinds of issues. They had great success with "The Mob." Hell's Angels. ISIS at home. They know how to get this done.

And, for the last three years, their leadership has been tied up in knots trying to influence the election of a president. They got a warrant to listen in on a political campaign based on flimsy (at best) evidence. This ought to be a piece of cake.

New laws don't solve anything, with one caveat. Colorado's legislature passed, and the Governor signed, a "Red Flag" law that allows a court, on a showing of sufficient evidence, to order a person to temporarily surrender their firearms, or be prohibited from purchasing new ones. The common complaint...well there are several, but the main one is the transfer of burden of proof to get weapons back. Ok - let's see if that becomes an issue when the lawsuits start. But, we can take someone into custody already if we have probable cause they are a danger to others. A law letting us impound their guns seems logical.

While we're on that subject - how about we stop demonizing good cops who are out doing the jobs their supposed to do. A few years ago I rode with a Baltimore officer who works a pretty tough neighborhood. He was talented, capable and dedicated (I've tried several times to entice him onto our little shop). The workforce was dispirited, did not have the support of their politicians for what were largely illusory and political reasons and were struggling to do good in their community. That narrative has been replayed all over the country.

The President, in an uncharacteristic burst of sensibility, made a number of valid points in his recent speech. I know - Orange Man Bad. But, he was right. He said things we can all embrace. Let's set aside our differences and tackle this problem.

Finally - damp down the anger. It's contagious. 


Thursday, July 4, 2019

Created Equal

To secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Declaration of Independence.

I read - as much as I could weather - an article that said people in the United States are dismayed, in record numbers, about our country. The author based this conclusion on an opinion poll claiming American pride is low because we are not "proud of our government."


America isn't the government. Government is a necessary structure. It is the three hundred-plus million of us who go about the business each day of pursuing happiness in the forms which we ourselves define.

Today, we celebrate independence. In a very real way, it is the independence to decide for ourselves what makes us happy, and to pursue it with enthusiasm. The Founders did not establish an independent government so we could be proud of it. It was established to allow us to pursue our own lives in peace.

Happy 4th.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Fat Tires, Little Bits

“You know, bicycling isn't just a matter of balance," I said. "it's a matter of faith. You can keep upright only by moving forward. You have to have your eyes on the goal, not the ground. I'm going to call that the Bicyclist's Philosophy of Life.”
Susan Vreeland, Clara and Mr. Tiffany 

"I need a basic mountain bike," I said to the owner of Schwab Cycles in Lakewood. "Nothing special, just something I can ride with my grandkids."

So it began. The folks at Schwab have always come through for my friends and me. This was no exception. Pat had enthusiastically embraced the decision. There wasn't a lot to think about. I wasn't buying another sleek road bike. 

have one right here. I can get you any color you want. It's $400. If you want disc brakes, that jacks it up to $600. It's a small, but..."

That's what I rode as a bike cop. Small. This one was basic black, no frills.

"I'll take it."

"You can ride it around the block if you want."

"It's a entry-level mountain bike. It looks fine."

It was fine. A day later...
This is what life looks like when you ride a bike.

Monday, May 27, 2019

The Heart of a Volunteer

“I guess that’s just part of loving people: You have to give things up. Sometimes you even have to give them up.”
Lauren Oliver, Delirium 

Memorial Day, 2019. We honor a hero, a person in uniformed service of our country who gave the "Last full measure of devotion." This year, our hero is Riley Howell.

Who? Riley Howell was a junior at the University of North Carolina - Charlotte. On April 30th a gunman entered a classroom. Mr. Howell, an Army ROTC cadet, tackled the gunman, buying time for his classmates to escape. In the process, he was killed.

His actions, above and beyond the call of duty, is in the best tradition of generations of service members who have given their lives. It is often said that their lives are given in the cause of freedom.

In Mr. Howell's case, as in so many in the annuls of our history, his sacrifice was much closer to Earth. He gave up everything in the service of his comrades, his friends.

Riley was awarded a Purple Heart, and a Bronze Star. He was a hero who gave his life in the service of his country.

With deepest respect for all of the fallen. 

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Here I Am; Send Me

Courage is looking fear right in the eye and saying, “Get the hell out of my way, I’ve got things to do.” Author Unknown

I'm sure that smoke from the conflagration on I-70 was visible to the first responders from nearly the moment they were dispatched. I'm sure the terror in the voices of the witnesses and victims was clearly evident in every call received in Jeffcom. I'm sure that the first units on scene reported they had arrived at a nightmare marring a perfect spring afternoon. Unknown number of cars, unknown number of victims.

What unfolded next is a textbook example of everything that is good about the emergency response system that has evolved in our state. Dispatch professionals sorted through the information pouring in, triaged it to make it manageable, and communicated it to the responding officers. The initial units made split-second decisions about victims, injuries, rescues as the flames shot hundreds of feet into the air. Officers from surrounding jurisdictions, many likely self-dispatching because they share a common comm center, arrived with the ages-old service professional question - "How can I help?"

With hundreds of resources arriving from multiple police and fire agencies, as well as CDOT, someone (or a couple of someones) takes charge because that's what they've been trained to do. They hear the commotion on the radio. They can feel the heat of the flames on their faces. They are breathing air tainted by burning plastic, metal, asphalt and, yes, people. They hear the sounds of combustion, the muffled explosions. They know what is at stake.

There are things to do.

By all accounts, everyone involved displayed courage, competence and professionalism - Police, Fire, CDOT, Comm Center. From the initial calls, the first on-scene's lifesaving efforts, the crash investigation figuring out a massive puzzle and methodically building a case (UPDATE: Including the criminalist who responded to collect evidence and take photos, who donned firefighter boots to make their way through the wreckage - home well into Friday), the PIO who patiently explained a dynamic, evolving situation well into the wee hours to a press corps (representing the public) needing updated information, to CDOT's command structure... The fire fighters wading into the flames, risking (and in this case sustaining) injury in a thousand different ways to ensure that the victims had every opportunity at life. Hundreds of methodically-trained, expensively equipped, experienced pros, doing the job like it's meant to be done.

The loss of life is tragic. Ours is a profession that deals with the very human emotion of grief, both of the family members left behind, as well as our own. We want to save every victim.

On May 1st it will be 40 years since I was first sworn in as a police officer. I can say this, without blinking. We are - the First Responder System in Colorado - exceptionally well prepared to serve the citizens of this state. The men and women who have stepped up, who have accepted the challenges of a career in emergency services, who have answered the question "Whom shall I send?" with:

"Here I am, send me."

I admire every one who responded. 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Flying into History

"I could never be so lucky again." Jimmy Doolittle.

Among the darkest times in living memory was the early part of 1942 -- when Hitler's armies were nearly to Moscow; when German submarines were sinking our oil tankers off the coasts of Florida and New Jersey, within sight of the beaches, and there was not a thing we could do about it; when half our navy had been destroyed at Pearl Harbor. We had scarcely any air force. Army recruits were drilling with wooden rifles. And there was no guarantee whatever that the Nazi war machine could be stopped. Historian David McCullough, Jefferson Lecture (2003).

Mourning the passing of the last Doolittle Raider.

It isn't that Richard Cole isn't important. As the last of the Doolittle Raiders, his passing at one hundred three years old is a monument to him and his life. There was a time, seventy-seven years ago, when he did something incredibly brave, incredibly meaningful.

They went together, the Raiders. Eighty fliers, sixteen specially modified B-25 Mitchells. Most got through the raid and returned to the US. Some didn't.

It is impossible for anyone not living then to understand what America was like. We can read the history books, the personal accounts. But, it is impossible for us, today, in a United States that has been the world's preeminent power for nearly eighty years to understand what early 1942 was like.

The attack on Pearl Harbor was seen by even sober observers as an existential threat to our country. Americans felt powerless in the face of armies that never seemed to retreat. Serious people with important jobs actively prepared for not only the invasion of the Hawaiian Islands. They were planning the defense of the West Coast, hoping to stop the onslaught somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.

The Raiders embarked on the aircraft carrier Hornet, one of the few big American ships left in the Pacific. The planes together carried about as many tons of bombs as one Vietnam-era F-105 fighter/bomber. The ships were discovered several hundred miles short of the aircraft's intended departure point. There wouldn't be enough gas to attack Tokyo and then find the bases in China, to make safe landings.

They took off, anyway.

The damage done to Japan was incidental. American planes would not arrive in large numbers over Tokyo for nearly three more years. Yet... The psychological impact on The US was substantial. We were fighting back. We would be okay.

Now, all of these men of courage have passed into history. They were giants, titans. They got into their airplanes, took off from a pitching carrier deck and delivered a message to the militarists in Japan - America will fight.

God bless you all.