Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Bills That Count

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; Theodore Roosevelt.

Mourning the passing of Lakewood Police Agent Ellis King.

I ran into my friend Ellis not long ago as he booked an arrestee's belongings into our Property Unit. He was fit, looked great. His usual smile and hearty laugh were intact. There were a few of the new guys about, but he wanted to remember...

"Those were great days," he said, booming voice commanding the room. "You and me and Mike Flowers working all of North Sector. Great times."

Ellis had been hired in 1980, me a year later. We hit it off, became friends. We worked the rough part of town, he and I and Mike. Call to call, having each other's backs, balancing a steady, sometimes bone-crushing workload. At the end of the day, laughing. With Ellis, there was always laughing.

Our careers ebbed and flowed. I ran into him at a low ebb, complaining that the organization was beating me down. How did he manage to keep a positive attitude after all of the years?

"The City has paid every bill I ever had."

Heroes are often measured by the enormity of their achievements. Ellis was a hero measured by the steadiness of his contribution. Always there at your "Six," never ever letting his friends down. Ellis and Mike and me.

I will miss you more than you will ever know.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Target Rich

“This won't stop her from getting elected," Shane said. "Stupider people get elected all the time. It's America. We love the sleazy. And the crazy."
"I would like to think better of us," Claire said, "but yeah. You're right.”
Rachel Caine, Bitter Blood  (2013)

Everyone, on both sides of the political wars, would like their heroes to be virtuous, their villains to be pure evil. So, when some disgusting fat-body Hollywood creep who happens to give gobs of money to progressive causes turns out to be a letch... Oh, my. Ain't we got fun.

First, let's get off of our high horses. The women who did what they had to do in a corrupt industry are not collateral damage in our culture wars. Many are true victims, people looking for honest work.

Most important, it isn't like we just discovered this about "Tinseltown." Google casting couch. The first example on Wiki is from 1915.

You want to make changes in the way women are treated? Stop going to the movies until real reforms are discussed and implemented. This self-ambulatory pile of pig shit ain't the only predator in town. Movie makers certify that no animal was harmed in the making of a movie...

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Act of Defiance

Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) "They're in the trees up ahead."
Sundance (Robert Redford) "You take the trees, I'll take the bushes."
Percy Garris (Strother Martin) "Will you two beginners cut...it...out."

Butch and Sundance try their hand as payroll guards. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, (1969).

In the immediate - and I do mean immediate - aftermath of the horrendous Las Vegas mass murder, there are a couple of points to make.

1. The average person has an amazing amount of courage that they access in critical times. Thousands of men and women did unfathomably heroic things while under fire. Many did things that cannot be adequately described as brave.

2. Professional first responders in Las Vegas went about their jobs in a manner that should make all first responders, and all Americans, stand up and cheer. I'm in awe.

3. Do not underestimate the power of prayer.

Okay. Here are a couple of things the Keyboard Rangers dabbling in bizarre conspiracy theories and hokie amateur analysis need to remember:

1. Las Vegas Metro, the FBI, the ATF, a variety of JTTF entities and a host of other agencies will be processing the crime scene for weeks. Witness interviews, review of CCTV from Mandalay Bay and other forensic evidence may take months.

2. It will be months before all of the collected data is collated, reviewed, catalogued and analyzed. The more really tasty "Off shore money transfer" evidence that is revealed, the longer it will take.

3. It may be years before the full report on the Route 91 shooting is ready for the public.

So... Ignore the Internet sleuths. They will only raise your anxiety level. Hug your kids, call your mom. Buy your sig-oh something special. Take the dogs for a walk...buy a dog. Listen to country music and never feel ashamed about who you are.

And give a big shout out for this guy. I'd love to buy him a beer, but that line is probably long and distinguished.  


Monday, October 2, 2017

Exceptional Valor a Common Virtue

Please welcome my friend Jared to Bikecopblog. We worked together when he was an exceptional Victim Advocate for our department. Both of his parents are police employees. Several years ago he began his own police career. I was going to write this blog, but read his words this morning and felt they were far better than any I could manage. Used with permission.

Title a variation of the statement "Uncommon valor was a common virtue," Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN, Iwo Jima, 1945. 



I have been watching coverage of last night’s massacre, in which multiple media outlets that routinely condemn police officers as a whole have deemed the actions of Las Vegas law enforcement as “exceptional.”

They couldn’t be more wrong.

Last night, Las Vegas police officers prepared for another “day at the office.” Then a man started shooting into a crowd. Their impulses to help others and stop the shooter overrode their impulses to protect themselves. As everyone else fled, they advanced—toward an unknown amount of shooters in unknown positions, to defend the lives and safety of people they had never even met. Most confronted automatic rifles with semi-automatic handguns. Most approached rifle rounds wearing ballistic vests that are unable to stop those rounds. The threat was more than thirty floors up, and they approached from the street. When they located the shooter in his room, the first officers in knew there was a very good chance it was the last room they’d enter alive. And they entered anyway.
This is not exceptional. This is the norm. This is what cops do because it is who we are. The exceptional ones are the ones who will dominate the news and the discourse long after the heroism of these officers fades from our collective memory.
Last night was tragic. But it would have been much more tragic if the men and women in police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances hadn’t done what the vast majority in their professions do all the time: run toward threats, stop them, and address the aftermath with selflessness and professionalism. And tonight they will get ready for “another day at the office” knowing full well it could be a repeat of the last...and that it could be their last as well.
I am devastated by the senseless loss of life last night, but I am proud of the men and women who proved yesterday, as they do every day, that such heroism and courage are decidedly unexceptional among our ranks. They do not require the recognition, but they certainly deserve it.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Malark

"Sometimes in the night, when the quiet wasn't feared as much, I'd think of home." Donald G. Malarkey at Bastogne, January 1945. Easy Company Soldier, Sgt. Don Malarkey with Bob Welch (2008).

Mourning the passing of Don Malarkey, soldier.

Consequential lives. That's what the soldiers of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne lived. What they did mattered.

He tried to enlist in the Marine Corps in the days following Pearl Harbor. He was rejected because of his teeth. Go figure. His next attempt was with the Army Air Corps - bad math. Drafted, he volunteered for the parachute infantry, having read that they were the best.

On June 5th, 1944 he climbed aboard a C-47 transport, carrying equipment that weighed almost as much as he did. The many perils of that night eluded him, and he joined on the ground a small band of night fighters. Toward morning they accompanied Lt. Richard Winters on an assault to neutralize artillery pieces raining death on the beaches at Normandy.

They numbered twelve. The Germans - five times more. In a brilliant piece of fire and maneuver still studied at The United States Military Academy at West Point, Lt. Winters led his team on a successful attack that silenced those guns. Malarkey won the Bronze Star for Valor. He was twenty-three years old.

Don Malarkey saw more action, and was on the line for more days, than any of the original troopers of Easy. He was still at the tip of the Allied spear when the 101st captured Berchtesgaden, Hitler's "Eagles Nest." They went to Austria to garrison, having been told that they were bound for the Pacific. Fortunately, the war ended prior to his redeployment.

I saw Don Malarkey at a presentation in 2011. He was touring the country, in the company of a friend, speaking about leadership. He talked of the other men, about their bravery, their sacrifice. He didn't say anything about himself.

I watched the Band of Brothers series, especially the interviews with the veterans. They all reminded me of my father. He had served in the Pacific, and fought in several of the most savage battles warfare has ever seen. He always said the same thing - "I was a part of something bigger than me. Those other kids, the ones who died or were badly shot up... Those were the heroes."

Don Malarkey wrote that this entered his mind, from Invictus, as he leapt into the night over France:

Out of the night that covers me
black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
for my unconquerable soul.

Thank you for your service, Sgt. Your soul, and the souls of millions like you, liberated a world.






Thursday, September 28, 2017

Stand for Something

I'm just going to leave this picture right here. You fill in the thousand words.

Rescue mission in Puerto Rico
Me, I start with - "We have our faults and our flaws as a nation. This man, this mission and the continuing service rendered by our military are not any of them."

Stay safe. Be well. Thank you.

The Party's Over

"I've had a bachelor party for thirty years. Why do I need one, now?" Hugh Hefner, about to be married in 1989.

Noting the passing of Hugh Hefner.

I'm an introvert. I may be one of the few men of my generation who never wanted to be Hugh Hefner. Way too much social interaction. It had to be exhausting.

Okay, there was one thing. The pajamas. Staying in pajamas all day long. In a huge mansion. Overlooking a beach. With a book. That would have been cool.

Rest in peace. You deserve it.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Before A Live Studio Audience

You know that when the NFL players kneel in protest, they are protesting my 38 years of service, right? When you "Like" their Facebook posts where they talk about injustice, that they mean me. They don't know me and yet, they are ready to brand me a racist based on the color of my uniform.

Maybe you don't know me, either.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Eject, Eject Eject!

Col. Jessup (Jack Nicholson): [in Jessup's office] Hmmmm...transfer Santiago. Yes, I'm sure you're right. I'm sure that's the thing to do. Wait, I've got a better idea. Let's transfer the whole squad off the base. Let's... On second thought, Windward! Let's transfer the whole Windward Division off the base. John, go on out there and get those boys down off the fence, they're packing their bags. Tom!
Tom (Joshua Molina): Yes, sir?
Col. Jessup: Get me the President on the phone. We're surrendering our position in Cuba!


"That's the stupidest thing I've ever read." So wrote a person on Facebook.

Talk about a high hurdle to clear. Sign onto Facebook, read a couple of posts and one will see that the level of written discourse there has found an express elevator to the cellar. A deep, dank, dark cellar. So, tossing around the superlative "stupidest ever" carries significant peril.

The article in question suggests that the Florida Keys - the whole archipelago - be abandoned. The author, writing in Forbes magazine, apparently had an epiphany after watching TV coverage of Hurricane Irma. The Florida Keys, he observes sagely, is vulnerable to storms.

I know, right? I had to sit down, too.

This proposal is part of a larger plan to "retreat to the interior." The theory is that the damaging storms are all coastal in nature, hard to defend against and, anyway, with sea levels increasing we'll have ocean-front property in Denver before long. The property damage alone, with some recovery costs (and insurance premium offsets) born by government, argue for abandonment.

Well. Detroit has suffered more property damage as a result of failed governmental policies than the Keys has from Irma. Let's abandon Detroit. Wait a minute. New Orleans is still recovering from Katrina. Let's abandon New Orleans. Let's move everyone and everything from along the Gulf Coast. Pat, get me the President on the phone. We're headed back to Ireland.

The lives lost, the homes destroyed, the livelihoods swept away by Irma, all of that is tragic in epic proportions. Many of us contribute money to the clean-up effort not because we fancy the props we get. We see the pictures, understand that these people are hurting and wish there was something more we could do.

And then a fellow, looking at the wreckage of his beach bar, posts "We'll be open as soon as we can." A restauranteur pays out of his own pocket to feed his community. People share, they work long hours for no pay to help clean up the mess. And they go right back to living in a place they call home.

This is not to say that some people will leave and never come back. That is their choice and, frankly, if Mother Nature put an ass whipping on me every decade or so I'd be inclined to get out of the way, too. But, for those hearty souls who will defend their homes and way of life, my hat is off. Rebuild.

We'll be by to visit. I'm okay with a generator, a blender and a Painkiller. And my toes in the water, ass in the sand and my soul mate beside me. Maybe the dogs, too, bathed in the glowing hospitality of people who cling to the preposterous notion that where there is life, there is hope.





Sunday, September 17, 2017

Gone With the Wind

Ralphie: Hey Curly, what all happens in a hurricane?
Curly: The wind blows so hard the ocean gets up on its hind legs and walks right across the land.
Key Largo, 1948.
Irma was an asshole.

Many of the most beautiful spots in the world were devastated in one day. On some islands, it is as though everything - buildings, vehicles, boats, trees...even the soil itself...disappeared into air so thick it sucked up a whole ocean in one part of the Caribbean and deposited it in another. The wind blew with such incredible force on Key West that it stripped the paint off of a concrete marker.

We sit at our computers, smart phones and tablets and marvel. And then, we give.

We here at Bikecopblog have a soft spot for beach bars. Some of our most amazing moments, some of the most interesting times and some of the most valuable places are located where the sand and sea meet. The Eye of the Storm, a restaurant featured prominently in Out of Ideas and The Heart of the Matter, is in actuality The PierSide Grill on Estero Island, in the town of Fort Myers Beach. It was a favorite whenever I would visit. Daughter Beth and I would drop off my suitcase, head for the beach, down a few cold Coronas and catch up. Sometimes, it was three or four in the morning before we left the beach and caught a few hours of sleep.

Pat and I drove with Beth down to The Keys, to Islamorada, and settled at a beach bar for drinks. It was a beautiful early spring day, a light breeze blowing in. We had not a care in the world as we munched seafood, sipped island drinks and toasted to our love for each other. That bar now is an empty collection of posts.

There are a ton of relief organizations out there, reputable places that are in the business of feeding, clothing and housing people who were left with their lives and the clothing on their backs. Find them, and give them money. Money doesn't need to be packaged, or frozen. Money doesn't know black from white, rich from poor. It supports people like the restauranteur on St. Johns who has been giving away 600 meals a day to feed his friends until they can get back on their feet. Money buys time, it buys life...it buys hope.

It buys things for beach bar owners who put this on Facebook this weekend:

"Even if it's a generator, an old door on saw horses and a blender. We'll be on the beach, making Painkillers, until we've rebuilt."

As Patton said - a person that eloquent has to be saved.

Just a Piece of Paper

“I am increasingly persuaded that the earth belongs exclusively to the living and that one generation has no more right to bind another to it's laws and judgments than one independent nation has the right to command another.” Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to James Madison.

Washington could be foolhardy and ill-tempered. Adams could be vain, irritable, Jefferson evasive, at times duplicitous. And even in their day, many saw stunning hypocrisy in the cause of liberty being championed by slave masters. Historian David McCullough, Jefferson Lecturer at the National Endowment for the Humanities, 2003. 

Today is Constitution Day. That remarkable document was signed by its authors on this date in 1787, and sent on to the states to be ratified. There was no guarantee that they would do so.

It was a flawed document. It provided for the continuation of slavery, did not command the vote by women. It is maddeningly vague occasionally, written as it is in an English with which we are only marginally familiar. Although provisions for its amendment were written into it, the process was made so cumbersome that it is rarely successful.

Yet... Millions of men and women have raised their right hand to provide America with a blank check - "Up to and including my life" - and promised to support, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Why?

Not because it is perfect, but because it gives us a uniquely American way to resolve the issues that face us. We are a fractious, bickering, petulant society. We can be selfish, lazy, opportunistic. Every human frailty, every pettiness and shortcoming resides here, jockeying for advantage under the law.

But, so does virtue, service and sacrifice. America is less a territory than it is an idea, that everyone has value, everyone has a right to raise their voice in how our affairs are conducted. Everyone has the right to arrange their lives as they see fit. Government exists to safeguard rights given by "their Creator," not to define them narrowly for its own purposes. It exists in its present form because this generation has accepted the gift bestowed upon us two centuries before we were born - the gift of a free self-government.

A man I met in a class several years ago said it in one sentence - "Anywhere I stand is the land of the free and the home of the brave."

Support, protect and defend. Happy Birthday.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Alive and Well, But Thanks For Asking

"You, Flock of Seagulls. You know why we're here?" Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) Pulp Fiction (1994).

There is, apparently, some lesser-light moron "teaching" (having never taken a class from him, I use that term only because his employer does) at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. He has had, as one suspects, a number of police officers and sheriff's deputies in his classes.

He found his way onto Twitter recently and posted something about the positive aspects of teaching "Future dead cops." He also occupies, in some capacity, a leadership role in the "Antifa" movement of violent assholes who show up in black hoodies and masks at rallies. They are known mostly for mouthing empty, vacuous phrases of the "You're not the boss of me" genre, and throwing objects at the local cops. He says he likes many of his officer-students as people, but as a profession they are all thugs.

Well, aren't you a special kind of jerk.

John Jay, the college's namesake, was a "Founding Father," and, although initially a slaveholder was an early abolitionist. He was one of three authors of the Federalist Papers - Alexander Hamilton and James Madison the others. Jay was nominated by George Washington to be the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court upon the ratification of the Constitution in 1789.

In the 1960s, American law enforcement struggled to rid itself of a well-deserved reputation. It wasn't that our profession was corrupt -that was sort of a given. Racism, sexism and a host of other ills plagued departments all over the country. Among the proposed solutions - advanced education for officers, on the theory that individuals with college degrees would improve the quality of policing. Into that hopeful era was born the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Fast forward to 1971. Those of us who were looking for a college teaching criminal justice had limited choices. There was John Jay, Michigan and Northeastern University, in Boston. I chose NU (for reasons that are, at best, obscure). They, the other institutions that created their own programs, and society's evolving demands for better police protection have born a very positive change. For those of us who drank that particular Kool Aid, got our degrees and set about to make a few changes from the inside...46 years later (34 of them as a cop, 2 as a lawyer) I think it's worked out better than we'd hoped.

Law enforcement officers today are more professional, better trained and more capable than ever. There are far fewer examples of graft, racism and favoritism than previously. In a recent comment a person differed with that perception, saying "What about..." and naming two recent scandals. Okay.

Two, out of the millions of citizen contacts police officers make. Two, out of the nearly million LEOs in this country. Two? The results - the average officer finds it difficult to sit in a public place and enjoy a cup of coffee and a breather without being "pestered" by citizens thanking them for what they do.

Part of it is because modern police departments demand a lot from their employees. To compete with those expectations officers continue their educations, increase their understandings of how the criminal justice needs of a free society are addressed and serve their communities with honor.

So... Hey, Flock of Seagulls. You know why the cops in your classes are so respectful of you?

You don't matter.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Blue Line

Don't you just want to get on a plane, a boat... Anything, and give them a chance to go home while you have the watch?


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

John Has A Long Mustache

There are times when the only reason I go to work is because my feet hit the floor in the morning. After nearly thirty-nine years of law-related employment, there may be more battles to fight, but I'm relegated to the role of aging veteran, seated in the lawn chair, lap blanket in place, waving a tiny flag at the passing parade. Three cheers.




And then...

One of my office mates is in the phone. He is speaking to who knows whom, and utters a name that can only be a comic book character. Pedro Zulu, crime fighter. But, a fellow supervisor utters--

"The cat is in the garbage can. I repeat."

Explaining why this is one of the funniest things I've ever heard will only take away from the spontaneity of the moment. He is a bright, engaging man with a wicked sense of humor. I can't stop laughing. It reminds me of the great days this profession affords.

I'm going to let my feet hit the floor again tomorrow.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Heels and Toes

“Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake;”
Christopher Hitchens, Letters to a Young Contrarian

Adversity does not build character, it reveals it.

James Lane Allen

A few thoughts on the disaster in Houston:

Texans are proud, resourceful, resilient people. They set aside their own losses, forked over their own money and showed up in everything that could float to evacuate people. The call went out, and they responded.

First responders, as a whole, mean it when they say they serve their communities with their lives, if necessary. Cops from all over - not just Texas - showed up in force to relieve the brothers and sisters in the Houston area working to exhaustion.

https://www.click2houston.com/video/police-officers-from-all-over-arrive-in-houston-to-help-assist-in-harvey-recovery (copy and paste)

Mother Nature can be a hard ass.

Katrina was a cautionary tale for FEMA and the President. It was a lesson that was not lost on them.

The Press can be an ass.

Helicopters and their military crews are worth their weight in gold. Whatever they are getting paid, it's not enough. However expensive they are to buy and fly - it's worth it. We should have a lot of them.

I don't know what the pictures of people who have just lost everything, still with huge grins taking selfies with President Trump, means. Maybe it just means they were caught up in the moment. But, they were more meaningful than staged protests, a handful of violent assholes (of all persuasions) and the morons who seem obsessed with The First Lady's shoe choices.

'Merica. Can do.

 
 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Bring on the Wonder

Ever heard of Patty Jenkins? Yeah, me neither. I still would not have heard of her, but a football game we wanted to watch wasn't on DirectTV. Neither could we stream it. We went old school - an old AM radio - and gave up when "our" team got behind early. We bought Wonder Woman, as much because we'd had a cartoonish kind of week, and we'd already seen The Avengers a bunch of times.

It was wonderful. Set in the waning years of WWI, cars blew up, machine guns sputtered and the special effects crew worked overtime on the Matrix-like bullet slo-mo. The leads were beautiful and handsome, the support as quirky as one might expect and who could argue with a scene that starts and ends on a beach. But, that wasn't the best part.

What is probably the British Parliament is in session. There are no women present (the first would not be elected until 1919). The presence of Wonder Woman, dressed down (she's still obviously a woman), brings cat calls and shrills of derision. "Get her out of here" was fairly prevalent.

She does not heed their commands. She is bright, witty, idealistic, crazy brave... A leader. She is not a cartoon.

This was Director Patty Jenkins' breakout movie. She had tried a dozen times, and failed, to bring projects to the big screen. Her other film, Monster, turned a nice profit. Then, fourteen years of TV. Wonder Woman hit big - the highest grossing film directed by a woman, ever. It beat Mama Mia!, which you must not miss.

In the credits - we always watch the credits to the end - there is a beautiful dedication. Simple. "In Memory of Captain William T. Jenkins." Who's that?

Her dad.


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Refuse The Line

To supress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker. Frederick Douglass



America's Civil War is in the headlines again. The purpose, near as I can tell, is to reexamine old animosities in order to gain new political advantage. Such is the confusing, superficial and damaging discourse that passes for collaborative conversation.

But, to quote the Mayor of Chicago - never let a good crisis go to waste. Someone has posted Ken Burns' national treasure onto YouTube!

To watch this masterpiece of historical genius is to be awash in the currents that made America what she was in the middle 1800s. It is lavishly photographed, wonderfully paced and beautiful to behold. No one's understanding of that period is complete without it.

Narrator David McCullough (himself  a highly regarded author, scholar and historian) draws depth from the spoken score. An array of Civil War experts contribute insights accumulated along a lifetime of study. Period photography brings the viewer into the lives of the famous and the ordinary, to places that are familiar and obscure. The faces of those held in bondage are particularly moving - the simmering anger, the helplessness, resignation.

One hears the beauty of the score - the solo piano rendering of "Battle Cry of Freedom" so elegant that it left the recording crew in tears. The period pieces that capture the folly, the sense of adventure and the desperation that war brings. Then, there is Jay Ungar's "Ashokan Farewell."

Visit the places. Read the books. Find the interviews (if for no other reason than to hear the charming, deeply-Southern voice of Shelby Foote). There is no reason not to use this as an opportunity to discover how much more there is to know.

You might just agree with this Churchill quote, repeated by Mr. McCullough in many of his pieces:

"We have not journeyed all this way across the centuries, across the oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies, because we are made of sugar candy."
 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Laughing Our Way to Justice

"Once I accept injustice, I become injustice. For example, paper mills give off a terrible stench. But the people who work there don't smell it. Remember, Dr. King was assassinated when he went to work for garbage collectors. To help them as workers to enforce their rights. They couldn't smell the stench of the garbage all around them anymore. They were used to it. They would eat their lunch out of a brown bag sitting on the garbage truck. One day, a worker was sitting inside the back of the truck on top of the garbage, and got crushed to death because no one knew he was there." Dick Gregory.

Noting the passing of comedian and activist Dick Gregory.

For a funny guy, a man who made audiences laugh out loud, he could also make a person uncomfortable. Soul searching does that.

 "Last time I was down South I walked into this restaurant and this white waitress came up to me and said, "We don't serve colored people here." I said, "That's all right. I don't eat colored people. Bring me a whole fried chicken." At the Playboy Club, Chicago, 1961.

Gregory was one of a number of breakthrough black comics in the 1960s, men who used quick wit to help the medicine go down. America was being reminded, sometimes forcefully, that there was a lot of work to be done if she was to mean what she said about equality, freedom and justice. Gregory led from the front, paying the price - literally - in blood. He spent time in jail, mostly for standing up for the things  other Americans take for granted.

It isn't easy, hearing that the comfortable world around you is not open to others merely because of their skin color. Today was a new day - what were you doing to fight injustice? It was a message we in the awakening 1960s didn't always accept. We didn't always laugh.

It wasn't just about race for him. Wherever he found a cause, he found his voice. He was a feminist, an animal rights champion, and something of a truther. His health food gig was unconventional, mostly liquid. He was still on the road, still appearing, when a simple medical issue took him at 84. As doctors fought for his life, he promised his audiences he'd be back. He had an opinion about events in Charlottesville. He wanted to share them.

God speed.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

In Honor of The Ordinary Soldier

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

Flanders Fields, John McCrae, 1915
The site was beautiful, understated, lush. The lawns were trimmed close, monuments in neat rows. Some graves were marked with crosses, others plaques. They were the honored dead, men who had fallen in battle in the service of their country. They agreed, they disagreed - maybe they didn't even understand why their service was necessary. The enemy had killed them, and here they slept, forever.

It was the summer of 1972. I was seventeen, visiting Europe with my aunt, uncle and cousin. We were at the Sandweiler German military cemetery in Luxembourg, a mile from the American military cemetery where George S. Patton is buried. Here approximately eleven thousand men are interred, most killed during the Battle of the Bulge.

In the law, it's called "Neutral principles." That is, are there guidelines that are readily applicable to everyone, regardless of race, nationality or some other status? They are often described as content-neutral.

I wonder, given the uproar about Civil War monuments, graves and remembrances, if a little sanity isn't in order.

Doesn't a country deserve to honor the men and women who fall in its service?

It doesn't matter if that country won or lost. The reason for the war, and its prosecution, might have been of the noblest moral purpose, or the foulest depths of depravity. The lost might have been a great person, or a fool.

 But you're gambling with those boys' lives. . .
. . .just to beat Montgomery into Messina.
lf you pull it off, you're a hero, but if you don't. . . .
What happens to them? The ordinary combat soldier.
He doesn't share in your dreams of glory, he's stuck here.
He's living out every day, day-to-day, with death tugging at his elbow
. General Omar Bradley to General George Patton, Sicily, 1943.

Recently, a man traveled to Japan. He had in his possession a flag he had taken from the body of a fallen Japanese soldier on the Marianas island of Saipan. It had been signed by friends of the fallen, wishing him well. He was an ordinary soldier, called to duty by his country.

This is not to say that ostentatious monuments to generals and politicians who intentionally fought to preserve the savage, hateful institution of slavery are beyond scrutiny. Each should be evaluated individually, not only for its intent at the time it was placed, but for the things for which it has come to stand. This doesn't erase history. It merely applies a bit of perspective.

Colonel Robert Gould Shaw led his Union troops into battle in 1863. He was killed, along with most of his troops. He was buried in a common grave with them, an intended slight on the part of the enemy troops who saw to the burial. Shaw's father saw it differently:

 We would not have his body removed from where it lies surrounded by his brave and devoted soldiers....We can imagine no holier place than that in which he lies, among his brave and devoted followers, nor wish for him better company. – what a body-guard he has.

God bless the fallen, that their memory survives the petty politics of the moment.

Before the Fall

It is said that one needs to remember the past, so as not to repeat it. Of course, that only applies to the errors.

In July 2016, members of the Black Lives Matter movement engaged in a peaceful protest in Dallas, TX. They accused law enforcement officers of targeting blacks, in unlawfully killing African-Americans merely for the color of their skin. Protesters, and officers, posed for pictures.













Some hours later, fourteen Dallas officers were shot. Five died of their wounds. While the sniper was still selecting target officers, officers shielded, protected and evacuated some of the same marchers.

 This is a bit of history we might want to remember.

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Keen Eye For People

This is how it starts.

A friend sees someone at a bar, and gets my attention on FB. He tells me the fellow is different, not speaking to anyone. Fixated on a book, and a laptop. Animated. A mop of disheveled brown hair, though which he runs his fingers from time to time. Occasionally, he strokes his month-old stubble.

He's drinking beer,and eating a burrito. It is "plain" in the sense that it is not smothered with awesomesauce. He picks up a salt shaker and sprinkles his meal liberally. It seems to bother him not at all that burritos are just not consumed that way in Denver.

We conclude he's a former Tier One operator. He learned to eat food that way in the jungles of Columbia, chasing the FARC. He's out of the service, but remains tied to his friends through a company selling the skills of former SpecOp officers. He stares at his computer, sends a text to his current girlfriend ("Going fishing. Need my pole.") Her reply suggests this is going to be one deployment too many. He'll have to get his M4 and Sig after she's gone.

Cici 2 - the sequel to A More Perfect Union - needed the antagonist, as it were, to have a face. Game on.



Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Gentle on my Mind

Things ain't what they used to be...and probably never was. Will Rogers.

Many people look back on the early years of their lives and yearn for those simpler times. They did not grow up in the 60's.

The late Sixties and early Seventies were an amazing amalgamation of conflicting social influences. Rock music's expressions were sometimes angrily political, occasionally drug-celebratory, presenting a hard edge. At the movies, one might walk in to a double feature - one being Patton, the other MASH - where the American military is celebrated and skewered. Onto this stage strode Glen Travis Campbell.

He'd had a big hit - "Gentle on my Mind." It was an unconventional love song by any account, a loner on the road, something of a hobo, who remembers someone not because he has to, but because he can't stop himself.

It struck a chord. Doesn't everyone have someone in their past, the memory of whom lingers through the years? Millions of people from around the world answered yes by the simple mechanism of purchasing the record, or listening to it on the radio. Or both.

Campbell grew up in Arkansas, and moved to LA to pursue a music career. He was a session musician, that is, an excellent player who sits in with better known stars and does the heavy lifting. He was an exceptional guitar player. The list of groups with whom he'd associated was a who's who of headliners.

A string of hits helped land him a movie role, and a variety show on TV - a popular genre during that period. My parents loved the show, watched it every week. My mom especially loved Campbell's wholesome appeal, his clear tones and easy manner.

His career was not to be a fairy tale. Drinking and drugs took their toll. Music tastes moved on.

It's easy to dismiss him as a phony, his career brief and inconsequential. But, when he passed away yesterday at 81 there were millions of young men and women my age, remembering the nights when they huddled around a TV with their now-late parents and sang along.  May those memories sit gentle on their minds.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

God Save the Queen

"Wherever we want to go, we go. That's what a ship is, you know. It's not just a keel and a hull and sails; that's what a ship needs. Not what a ship is. What the Black Pearl really is, is freedom." -Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), The Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)


I first saw The Queen in the summer of 1972 from the concourse of Frankfurt Airport, Germany. She was big, elegant, majestic. Her size dwarfed the other aircraft, and lent lie to her apparent speed. The approach looked impossibly slow, but as she sped past it was obvious she'd need most of the runway before slowing to taxi speed. Dressed in Pan Am livery. Clipper something, the type - Boeing's 747 - had entered service a short few years before.

I had flown "Across the Pond" in a rickety, packed-to-the-gills TWA Boeing 720. We'd departed Philadelphia for London in the dead of night, but stopped in Bangor to refuel. We refueled again to make the hop to Frankfurt.

The 747 - nicknamed "The Queen of the Skies" - came to represent comfort, even back in economy class. High ceilings, a wide body, and enough heft to smooth out all but the harshest air made flying in one a treat.

From the mid-1990s until very recently I sat on a lot of airplanes going to and from Rochester, NY. We sat down one night and guessed that there had been fifty (plus or minus) separate trips. Lots of aircraft. I became adept at finding bargains, getting a good seat, and reading. I was scheduled to fly Denver to Chicago one morning on the new United Boeing 777. We had a last-minute plane change - to a 747. It was beautiful. It was enormous. I should have taken pictures. United flew its last domestic 747 flight yesterday, Chicago to San Francisco. It was packed. 

About a year ago KLM, the Royal Dutch Airline, transitioned from its wildly popular 747 service to St. Maarten, preferring an Airbus that gets better gas mileage. Thousands of people flew to that tiny Caribbean island just to see her - a 747 called "The City of Nairobi".  The crowds cheered, the cockpit crew waved and posted a sign in their window. "Bye bye."

Larger, more modern aircraft have (in some ways) supplanted her. But...

At about five o'clock every night a 747 departs Denver International Airport and begins a slow, majestic climb to the northeast. She is full of fuel, baggage and upward of three hundred souls. She wears the Lufthansa livery; the next time she lowers her gear will be on final approach to Frankfurt's international airport. As though it was an everyday thing...which it is.

Long may she reign.




A Hundred Thousand Thank You Notes

Writers write, so readers can read. William Forrester (Sean Connery), Finding Forrester (2000).

The dogs had gone to bed. Pat was in Dayton, about to graduate. Slowly, Bikecopblog's view counter crept toward one hundred thousand. It ticked over just before 11 PM. I shut off the light.

To those who have read these pages, to those who have written guest blogs, to the many people who have encouraged me in this endeavor... To my wife Dr. Pat, a gifted writer. To Katy, whose blog Behind Blue Eyes and a Margarita Glass is totally worth your time. To Beth, who has written here with grace. To Matt, whose writing will soon earn him the graduate degree he richly deserves.

To the men and women of law enforcement. We live, and some of us die, in the service of others. We stand, and we fall, as one.

Thank you.



A Doctor in the House

In an august moment begging for pretense, she was gloriously, lovingly humble. Her commencement speech's "Historical quote" sprung not from the pages of classical thought, but from Winnie the Pooh, about a lot of gratitude nestled in a small heart. She was calm and clear about who she is, who she loves and what it took to get to that moment, to climb that mountain.

To graduate and become Dr. Pat Greer, PhD.

It was a massive undertaking. She spoke of the ups and downs - few in her audience could know how the depths and heights tugged at her. Graduate study, especially doctoral candidacy, is as much about looking inward as examining external realities. It's imagining a different place, a better world, and dedicating oneself as a scholar to saying something meaningful about what might be. Then letting a lot of very smart people pick it apart. And putting it all back together again.

Winnie the Pooh. Love, devotion to friends, cheerful optimism, worldly innocence, gratitude for a life lived in the service of others. Worthy of a doctor of philosophy, a teacher, a mother, a friend. A soul mate.





Friday, July 28, 2017

Unflattering Imitation


Maybe we as officers have a responsibility to this country to see that the men and women charged with its security are trained professionals. Yes, I'm certain that I read that somewhere, once. Colonel Nathan Jessep (Jack Nicholson), A Few Good Men, 1992.

 Nothing to write about? Ha!

I haven't done more than post a couple of oldies in the past few weeks. I suppose there is a good reason. Several, in fact. Maybe I can get into a rhythm if I write about why I haven't been writing.

Work. Getting an academy class underway requires a degree of effort I would not have anticipated prior to my assignment into Training. As our organization has accelerated hiring, we've doubled the number of recruits...

No. Writing about stress is stressful.

Nothing about the real world is appealing, right now. Since National Review, or Vox or any of the alphabet big hitters don't pay me to write, I'm under no obligation to direct my attention to what is going on in DC. Sure, I'm a citizen. I should take a keen interest in the goings on of government because an informed opinion and blah, blah blah. Those people are weird. They are often stupid. Good people enter the Beltway and their brains - and their hearts - turn to mush. Writing about them for free seems like an exercise in futility.

Law enforcement has had some recent dark days. We've seen the deaths of several officers recently. But, nothing is as inexplicable (presently, anyway) as the shooting in Minnesota that took the life of a young woman. She had called police to report a suspicious incident. One of the officers who responded shot her. The reason has yet to be announced, other than a sort of general "He felt threatened."

I spent the better part of a bike ride framing a blog about that shooting. I reject, out of hand, the possibility that he shot her "for no reason." There is always a reason. Sometimes, it takes a while for the investigation to run its course. Occasionally, the underlying cause is not easy to understand.

About the time I was going to write about this officer's training, its potential good-faith flaws and the possible solutions, two things happened. One was the inevitable, foreseeable and totally predictable politicization of the tragedy. There isn't really a good reason to indulge any of that.

LinkedIn provided the actual reason I hesitated (until now). Someone posted an essay from an "Internationally-recognized expert on police training." I read it. That was a mistake.

The author's premise was that training (especially the lack thereof) could not be the culprit. He, an internationally-recognized expert on police training, had personally reviewed the curriculum of the academy the officer had probably attended. It was standard issue, as basic training goes and was mighty fine. There were no deficiencies he could detect, inasmuch as he was an internationally-recognized expert on police training and would be able to ferret out faults and flaws immediately.

I went to our pantry and fished out a bottle of tequila. The mere act of combining a glass of ice, some orange liqueur, lime juice and the result of distilling Baja Mexico's blue agave plants provided a chance to calm down. Here's to you, internationally-recognized expert on police training.


Training people to be police officers is a series of trade offs. The first one (a gifted friend turned me on to this) is the misappropriation of the word "training." I once made the mistake of using the T-word to describe a classroom lecture. "We were informed," he snarled. "It isn't training until the information is applied in a scenario, the officer's actions are critiqued, and the exercise is repeated successfully."

This distinction is often lost in the translation. Minimum training requirements at the academy level are often defined by hours delivered, tests passed and minimums attained. Had the young officer with two years' experience (did that include his basic training time?), partnered with a guy fresh out of the Academy, ever practice how to deal with threats while seated in his police car? If so, what was that like? How closely did it replicate reality? Was there a decisional shooting component - that is, was he trained (not just taught) how to distinguish between situations that are initially perceived as threats and ones that are lethal?

Good training is expensive, time-consuming and tough. Great training is rare and offered only to a select few, because it is prohibitively costly and takes officers away from their typical duties for long periods of time. So, departments do the best they can with the limitations facing them. 

Most purposefully-trained, genuinely decent officers (photos of the involved officer create a first impression that he is one) who are given a moment to reflect will ultimately solve the puzzles street situations present. But,  sometimes there is no time to ponder options. Instantaneous decisions are made, well or badly, based on how the mind has been trained to react. Not told, trained.

Was the young officer trained to handle what happened that fateful night? The internationally recognized expert says yes.

I am a mere simple country boy trying to make my way in this world. So I have to admit I haven't the slightest idea how the young man had been told, taught or trained. I do know one thing. Most professional police trainers will read the ultimate report multiple times, to make sure we are fulfilling our obligations to train the men and women charged with protecting our communities. We owe them, and the people they serve, nothing less.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

A Big Bike Bag of Happy

The rain came and went. It began just as we entered the underground parking - on bicycles. By the time dinner was over, breaks in the clouds signaled dry weather. We set off for our night ride, the last block of instruction.

Bike Patrol Class, May 2017.

The realization would hit me the next day, hit like a throat punch. After nearly 20 years of bicycle patrol, a decade coordinating our program, countless classes taught and many hours patrolling in the company of my friends... I might have rung down the curtain on my career as a bike cop with that last night field exercise.

I decided, as the emotions ebbed and flowed, I did not know how to feel about that. My current assignment is rewarding (training recruits), the enticing prospect of retiring looming on the horizon. Yet, many of my favorite moments came on two wheels.

Nights, in the bitter cold. My friend of many years, a fellow sergeant, would arrive at my calls bearing a thermos of hot coffee. Up along Colfax on graveyard shift, my riding partner and I rolling up unseen on fleeing suspects. Hours and hours patrolling the Farmer's Market with a close friend. Working a beat along side an especially talented cop on her last night with our department.

Several of us created the bike patrol class - polished, honed and polished some more. We rode the obstacle courses a hundred times, proving their utility. We went over the curriculum. We delivered the class over and over, welcoming instructors from another agency - something that made us all that much better.

I was riding the Light Rail, headed home from lunch with a close riding friend. One of the RTD security officers approached during a fare check. I produced my law enforcement ID card and offered it to him.

"Sergeant, I know who you are," the young man said. "You taught our bike class."

The bikes were away, the 2017 class in the books. I was happy to ride - happier, really, that I could still ride well enough to teach. I was happy to have handed the class over to the two talented young men who had taken the lead. My legs were sore, I had several technicolor bruises from falling.

But, I am no longer...

"Two-fifty, I'm clear on the bike."

I don't think I'm happy about that.

A Fool for Marketing

Advertising is based on one thing, happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It's freedom from fear. It's a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you are doing is okay. You are okay. Donald Francis "Don" Draper (Jon Hamm), Mad Men (2007).

It is a yearly right of passage - what are the Super Bowl commercials going to be? Some are amazingly clever (Doctors surrounding a patient on the operating table "He's got money coming out the wazoo!!"). Some are stupid (choose your "favorite"). There is one goal each company has for the $5 Million they spend just for the thirty second slot. They want to make money by influencing a viewer to purchase something.

The same is true with political intercourse (pun very much intended). Unless the writer/speaker is warbling on merely to hear themselves speak (a charge often leveled at Bikecopblog), the diatribes of pundits, politicians and the true believers is directed at influencing someone to do something. Sometimes, it is to open a checkbook, brandish a credit card or otherwise enable the transfer of funds from them to the chosen end user. Political figure A appears at a podium, reads a speech in high dudgeon written for him by a graduate student beginning a climb within their party and, within moments, out go the emails to the faithful asking for money to address the ill. Or, defeat the awful, evil demagogues in the other party. Etc.

We've all gotten used to it. When Nixon's Committee to Reelect the President turned out to be more insightful than intended, the jokes ran hot and heavy, even as he was forced out of office. Gerald Ford, a gifted athlete, falls once ("Drive one truck and now I'm a truck driver?") and Chevy Chase turns pratfalls into comedic gold. Carter is an out of his league peanut farmer with an alcoholic brother. Reagan a doddering old fool. All meant to influence.

We live now in an overheated maelstrom of vitriol, with apparently no self-imposed limitations as to subject matter. A woman holds the simulated severed head of the current president and important, influential people come to her defense. Formerly respected media outlets first patronize sleazy inside operators peddling damaging information, publish it on the front page as fact only to find out it is lies...and the correction is buried. People with whom one disagrees are not just wrong, they are the lowest of the lowly dogs, barely human. They have no redeeming traits - they should be jailed, banished or... No one would be surprised if someone shot them, or stabbed them to death. "Which, of course, we hope doesn't happen."

Careers are built not on sober, factual analysis but on raised voices and a barrage of baseless charges. It isn't enough to win an argument, one must humiliate their opponent, for that is what they deserve. An election takes place, the results are in and the other side refuses to respect the outcome.

So when a deranged, self-righteous, politically-obsessed asshole brings a rifle to a baseball game intent on killing Republicans, the calm and self-aware of us quietly opine that it is the lunatic at fault. Surely, it could not be the cesspool of irresponsible personal attacks that call, in all seriousness, for violence. "Shut it down, shut them up. Disrupt, destroy..."

Bullshit. An unspeakably brave Capitol police officer drew fire. It's what we are trained to do when the shooting starts and citizens are the targets. "Here I am. Engage me." It provides the civilians time to take cover, beat feet or otherwise save themselves. Armed with a pistol, she and her colleagues took on a guy with a rifle and won the running gun battle. She was shot - while at the hospital, President Trump and the First Lady visited, bringing the officer and her wife flowers. What did someone say in print?

Basically, that the critically wounded congressman's past views and votes rendered him unfit to be protected by her.

I know... How about we say "Isn't it awesome that courageous, well-trained people find themselves in the right place at the right time? Isn't it nice of the President to show respect? Isn't it great that America in 2017 this amazing officer's wife doesn't have to hide?



Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Wait is Killing Us

The object of war is not to die for your country. It is to make the other poor, dumb bastard die for his. George S. Patton, General, US Army.

They are starting to come one right after another. Manchester, now London. Nail bombs at a teenage concert. Now another vehicle attack, coordinated with mass stabbings. Twenty-two dead in Manchester, the youngest eight years old. At least seven in London.

Churchill famously said "An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last." Reagan remarked "Freedom is never more than one generation from extinction." A CNN host's comment, regarding President Trump's statement that America must take measures to protect ourselves - the President is a "piece of shit."

Suspects are in custody, others were killed by police. Fine. In 1991 the world mobilized because a madman invaded Kuwait on a pretext. ISIS has invaded Europe, without pretext or apology, and the world prays for the victims, awaiting the next mass murder as though it's a flu epidemic.

These are bad people. They occupy territory, advertise themselves as sovereign, wave their flag and make actual, violent war on civilizations with whom we are (apparently) friendly and here we sit.

Enough.

An American platoon leader, surveying the results of a firefight in Iraq in the early 2000's, told a reporter asking about the war's progress: "Well, we've killed all the dumb ones. Getting to the smarter ones will take some time."

Let's make time for the smart ones.

 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Respecting the Rank

"Captain Sobel?" Major Dick Winters (Damian Lewis), as Sobel tries to avert his eyes from Winters'.
"Major Winters." Captain Herbert Sobel (David Schwimmer), nodding.
"Captain Sobel! We salute the rank, not the man."
 Points, Band of Brothers,  (2001)

Dad was a patriot, in the strictest sense. He had once written the blank check to Uncle Sam every military member tenders - "Payable, up to and including my life." He'd fought as a Marine on Saipan, and Iwo Jima. In 1946 he returned home to Philadelphia, to finish high school.

He was also a Republican. He understood and accepted the need to stand up to communist aggression in Vietnam, but didn't much care for the way it was being handled. President Johnson had made glaring errors, he thought, and American kids - he always called them kids - were paying with their lives. LBJ was the object of derision during the inevitable dinnertime discussions.

My brother Dave and I picked up on the vibe. One afternoon, intent on putting a few holes in a target, we repaired to the back yard, BB gun in one hand and the cover of Time magazine in the other. A cover featuring President Johnson and VP Humphrey. We didn't get very far.

"I don't care for your selection of targets," Dad said, using a hushed tone that signaled disappointment. "Find something else."

That was the lesson for the day. No yelling, nothing belaboring the point. We were 14 and 12. The message - respect the office, don't cross the line - was read loud and clear.

Which makes the recent internet hoo-rah about the red-haired woman and the Trump mask all the more puzzling. Didn't anyone teach her manners when she was young? If not, why not?

Maybe she's lucky, I guess. If I pulled an asshole stunt like that, it would be on me. I was taught better growing up, by a guy who knew how to respect someone with whom he disagreed. Maybe, at some point, somebody forgot to teach that to her.

Or, maybe she's just an asshole.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Article II, Section 2, Clause 2

The President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur...  The Constitution of the United States.

It really is that simple. Legalistic pretexts have arisen within the last generation, to avoid the complexities of actually conferring with people and convincing them you're right. Nevertheless, the "Paris Accords" are an agreement to which the Obama Administration was a signatory. The United States was not.

Maybe the PAs are stupid, evasive and a pretext for the waves of ever encroaching globalism that carries before it the banner of "Everything not obligatory is forbidden." Maybe they are sensibly-negotiated and scientifically defensible accords leading to a better future. I'm not Mark Ruffalo - I don't pretend to be a scientist. I read the conflicting experts and am very confused.

The treaty was never presented to the Senate, let alone approved by a 2/3rd vote. Consequently, if Mr. Obama wants to reduce his carbon footprint, that's his decision. The rest of us are no longer bound by the treaty he and his administration negotiated. That's the way this works.