Thursday, June 28, 2007

Tools and Answers

Answers satisfy curiosity. Tools get things done. It's interesting that it is answers, not truth, that satisfies curiosity- people can know things, and cease to question them, that are not true. Tools are more concrete, more 'real'. They get things done and you can tell whether something is done or undone most of the time.

I have far more tools than I do answers.

Daniel commented on the last post:

"I don't think this is correct. You also have to account for the fact that most of the ways you can die are either really painful, embarrassing, degrading, or some combination of the three. Other confounding factors include the effect a person's death will have on others, and how to determine who actually is a true believer."

This is where actions versus rationalizations are a tool. Where prediction is used to winnow reasons from excuses.

The result of dying can be a finite amount of pain; embarassment; degradation; pain and suffering for friends and family (also finite); and/or infinite bliss.

How you act towards avoiding or seeking death will be based on a measure of of two basic factors: How likely you think the outcome is and how much you value it.

If someone were to truly believe in an infinite post-mortem paradise and still avoided death for one or all of the factors that Daniel lists, that could only mean that the person valued momentary and mortal dignity and lack of pain over complete eternal freedom from pain and (presumably exalted) status in paradise.

Do the math. The choices here are not made based on value but on level of belief. We all believe in embarrassment, it's one of the deepest beliefs in the oldest part of our brains, a fear that the tribe could cast us out- but even the people who have been taught their whole life about the certainity of heaven and believe it utterly haven't convinced the chattering monkey that lives in the back of their brain. And that chattering monkey is as much, if not more, you than the any of your spoken beliefs.

Point one- Very common in martial arts. You can practice your down block, turn and strike for years, but somewhere in the back of your mind is a chattering monkey who has already decided, "Bullshit, I'm screeching, running and flailing- that's worked for millenia!"

Point two- Religion is a hot button and that made this a poor example, easy to confuse the subject with the substance- almost the exact opposite of the point. The post is about using predictability to measure sub-conscious value. If an inmate talks shit and makes threats behind a cell door but, the second you open it says, "Sorry, sarge, I wasn't talking about you." You know more about his heart than his words will tell you. If you notice that someone is nice in proportion to the attractiveness of the person he is talking to, you know that being nice is of lower value than what he might get by being nice.

This is extremely practical, almost mathematical in it's precision: people do what they value, therefore what they value is what they do, NOT what they say they value.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Reasons and Excuses

Reasons predict behavior.
Excuses are words thrown together, usually after the fact to explain behavior.

This is the difference: If you can predict someone's behavior, you have found the reason for it. No matter what the words are, if what someone says doesn't accurately predict future behavior it is an excuse.

This was triggered by Kevin's response to the last entry, which I think was a response to Mac's and if it was, it was a useful misunderstanding. That said, I'll take advantage of it, cause that's what I do.

Kevin: "There is nothing, I repeat, nothing heroic about throwing yourself away just for the sake of throwing yourself away thinking you'll wake up recycled in paradise. This is just whimpy escapism taken to an extreme."My life sucks. My job sucks. My salary sucks. My lifestyle sucks. My arranged-marriage wife sucks. Hey, I know! Let's strap on an explosive belt and go blow up a pizza parlor full of unarmed kids for God!"

Two pieces of this are relevant: "throwing yourself away thinking you'll wake up recycled in paradise." And " blow up a pizza parlor full of unarmed kids for God!"

No one really does this, and we do ourselves a great disservice when we let ourselves believe that the words people say accurately reflect what is going on in their minds.

What follows is a theory- it is how I believe people work. It has worked very, very well for me. You can talk at maybe 200 words a minute. The voice of you talking in your head isn't much faster. However if you were to describe what you see in a single eye-blink, depending on your memory, it would easily take a thousand words to describe the incoming information. Every decision you make involves variables that never enter into your thought processes, every conversation not just involves words but also body language and memory and a nebulous network of association.

Ever seen a mother get in a near wreck? Expertly applies breaks or gas, steers and throws out an arm to keep her child from pitching forward. All in a fraction of a second she does things that might take minutes to plan. One of the major parts of martial arts training is that you can't make anything work while you are thinking about it.

Your whole brain works like this. You best laid tactical plan, the essay you wrote, what you had for dinner or whether you always say, "I don't know honey, you choose," all of these are decisions made with one of the fastest supercomputers ever designed that weighs thousands of options, history, clues that your conscious mind will never access and presents the answer to you as a done deal.

The entire time, there is a voice in your head talking. Our mistake as humans is thinking that the voice in our head is important. That it is us. It doesn't even really contribute to this process.

One of the goals of deep meditation is to still the voice in your head. From the age of about thirteen on this was one of my disciplines. When I went to college I did not speak words in my head at all. There was no inner voice. It was no bar to learning, no bar to testing. I did pretty well and I was lazy about the same things I would have been lazy about if I had been talking to myself (like doing homework before the last minute) and I was obsessed with the same things I would have been obsessed with (like judo).

It did not become a problem or affect my life in any way (it did, actually. I made decisions faster than almost anyone else and would finish a test, whether in calculus or organic chemistry or psychology almost a full twenty minutes before anyone else. I also moved faster. And it isolated me from other people: they seemed to chatter and I found it annoying and most found something disturbing -or, occassionally, attractive- about my stillness) until I decided I wanted friends. Understand that I don't get lonely and really can't grasp the idea of desiring to be around people. College was the first time that I was exposed to people who were interesting as the people that they were instead of merely as an entity to study or maneuver around. I wanted to talk and listen.

The huge deficit was that I couldn't talk about myself. For a large part of my life I hadn't thought of myself in words so putting things into words for other people was hard. After years of meditation to still the internal voice, it took another couple of years of meditation to bring it back.

The purpose of the voice is to allow humans to communicate. It enables society. It is a giant excuse making machine. One of our problems is that we take it on faith that what we say in our heads (and what others say to us) are our real reasons.

It's horseshit, obviously. Anyone who pays attention knows, for each individual, how much of what they say accurately reflects what they do or who they are. The ones that are close, we admire, the ones that don't we call hypocrits or worse. It never occured to me that what someone says is who they are. They are what they do, and in their actions you will see their real values and beliefs. Yet almost everyone believes that they are what they say they are.

A case from over a decade ago: a mother would leave her baby locked in an apartment for days at a time in a shitty diaper with plates of peanut butter sandwiches and bowls of milk on the floor. She was afraid that her new drug-dealer boyfriend would reject her if he knew that she had a kid. The police found out when someone reported the smell. When she was arrested for child neglect she couldn't believe it and was outraged that anyone would imply she didn't love her baby. She knew she loved her baby because she felt love when she held him.

So, bringing it back to Kevin's post. Does anyone really believe that this incredible supercomputer that we think with is conned into believing that there will be a post-mortem reward in paradise? No animal would be that stupid. And no one blows up kids because their life sucks.

Look at the problem. Do the math. Who are the people doing these killings? They are not poor and disenfranchised people who saw their parents and children brutally murdered by American Business Interests. This isn't a Batman comic. They are overwhelmingly priveleged, upper middle class or rich, educated and often raised in the society they attack.

Because we assume that we would never kill without extraordinary cause (if the Iraqis bombed my house I'd kill them so they must be killing us for that reason) or they must be crazy (the after death reward thing- I know, it probably sounds anti-religious to call it crazy but however you label it it is a label we use to keep believing that the people who do this are different from us.) Yet the actual terrorists rarely have direct ties with people dying and were pretty secular until just before the bombings.

Again, do the math. What are the comparables? What group of well to do american kids blow people up? I'm going to skip school shootings for now because there is a bigger, more obvious group that is pretty much like us. The military.

We know what the deciding factor is in getting young soldiers to engage in combat. Unit cohesion. Solidarity. Teamwork. Belonging.

We know that a need to belong to a group (except for a very few individuals) is one of the most powerful motivators- and isolation is one of the greatest fears- of the human animal. Is it predictable? Yes, predictable enough that it is the core of all military training in every country and every paramilitary group in the world.

Do suicide bombers blow themselves up because they are going to heaven? Or because living on the edge of two cultures, not really feeling they belong to either, one culture has an absolute, no questions, sure-fire road to being on the inside.

Sure, you're dead... does that make sense. It doesn't make sense, but it is predictable. It is how recruiters (whether of cults or terrorist organizations) choose their initiates. If belief in paradise were a reason and not an excuse, true believers would be dropping like lemmings- not suicide, exactly, but not taking any precautions whatsoever in anything. The belief doesn't match the behavior. They can spout all they want, but the behavior is true. If people did it because their life sucked it would be far more common. The religious beliefs and despair aren't predictors, they are excuses.

They are what the people say, not just to others but to themselves, to make it seem a good idea. That doesn't mean they don't believe it. Like most people they believe their own words, but that doesn't make them true or make them reasons.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Scenario: Slip 'n' Slide

From a recent report I reviewed:

5' 11" tall. 250 Pounds. Serious psychological issues and still under the influence of meth. Violent and has promised to kill anyone he can touch. Naked. Currently locked in a cell, where he has flooded his toilet, urinated and defecated on the floor many, many times. The walls are smeared with his shit. The first responding deputy estimates that the cell is at least a half inch deep in raw sewage (or at least its fresh and home-made equivalent).

The threat is playing in the waste, making his own game of Slip 'n' Slide- launching himself at the floor where he slides to the opposite side of the small cell and kicks off the wall to slide back. Shit is a lubricant. He is having fun. But he would still like to kill an officer.

Your mission, young Jedi, is to get him out of the cell, without hurting him or getting hurt yourself, so that the room can be cleaned with bleach. Lots and lots of bleach.

How would you approach the problem, sensei?

You really think we get paid enough for this?

Monday, June 25, 2007

What Do You Think You're Doing?

What is worth killing for? What is worth dying for?

Believe it or not, those are the easy questions. The kindergarten version of this particular meditation. Whenever you think of self-defense or think of fighting, those questions are part of the equation. They have to be, because trying to work out your moral and ethical issues when someone else is trying to expose your inner workings to the cold air is ...inefficient.

Those questions are easy to ask and easy to answer. Too easy, because they are asked and answered from ignorance and comfort.

First thing, there are no absolutes, no trade-offs, nothing clear. It is never, "I will die to save ten children." The world doesn't work like that. It becomes, "I will risk dying for the chance of saving, maybe, some or all of the ten children." Risk and chance. You might not die. You might not save anybody. Or you might die and save nobody (an aside to the professionals- dead poeple don't save anybody.)

But it's not even that. That's still too clean. Because it might not be dying. When you think, "What would I risk dying for?" Take time to ask, to substitute paralysis and blindness for dying. Waking up in the same prison cell every day for the rest of your life. Waking up screaming from the same nightmare periodically, forever. Remember that dying also includes orphaning your children...

(And that's the other side, what got me thinking about this today. When you pull the trigger you may shift a human being from being to not-being, turn a person into a corpse, erase a history and turn it into meat- but you are also creating orphans and widows, who will become what they become in response to your action which may be decided and finished in the space of a breath.)

If those are off the table and it goes well for you then civil suits and legal entanglements and blood-borne disease are all out there. Or the face of someone who flashes before your eyes periodically, clutching his throat and trying to scream. Memories.

Even dying isn't what we think, not what we've been told. Some give up, sure. But the noble and heroic death, the manly eyes slowly fading as light passes and a look of satisfaction passes to the cold pallid lips...

There's pain and fear and thirst and screaming. But that's not the worst. The worst is being beaten- you gave all you had, everything you were and it wasn't enough. As your body slips closer to death, whether bleeding out or under blows you are helpless, utterly helpless. The warrior who wanted to take his stand against the world is mewling, begging and bargaining with god for one more breath of air or one less drop of pain. As helpless as a baby. In that instant, everything you thought you knew, the story in your head of who you are, is shattered.

This just barely scratches the surface. As you train, as you teach- what do you think you are doing? What are you training for? Living and dying? If only it were that clean.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Point Man

Look at "Professionals and Amateurs" from September 2005. Just the first couple of paragraphs, the rant.

Marc wrote some dark and secret thoughts and shared them. I want to think about them here. He wrote about being on point because you run a little faster to the call for help. That some of the professionals who talk tough always seem to take a second to tie their shoes or check their radios... just long enough for the real meat eaters to get a lead and start to get the situation under control.

I've only noticed this a few times in my career. That doesn't mean it didn't happen, it might have meant that I was usually so far in front and so busy juggling options that I never paid attention to the possibility that other people's slowness was a tactic.

The tendency to run towards trouble has had one profound effect- not just on me but on the agency and maybe the world. It is a key reason why real experience concentrates in so few people. A small percentage of people go into professions where violence is common. Of those a surprisingly large amount develop a skill at finding and staying in desk jobs. Of the remainder, most work shifts or districts where very little happens. The last winnowing is that even in a bad shift in a bad area, you can almost always slow down and let someone else take point.

So experience concentrates in a very small percentage of people- the 'meat-eaters'. But the perception of experience is spread with a very broad brush. Readers can't tell if the "expert" is a desk jockey or a political player who has run units without ever being in them or a part-time reserve. I've known training officers, many of them, who went into training because it was easier and safer than doing the job they were training others to do. Sometimes the best do teach, but sometimes people teach to avoid doing.

Full disclosure: I've been in a desk job for five months now. It's driving me nuts. If not for tactical team calls I'd probably be chewing off my leg.

So I haven't noticed it very often, and honestly less at work than in my civilian life. (Though at work I have developed the habit of at least listening for cover officers to be on the way, more for witnesses than for safety. I will end it and I will end it quickly so the aftermath is easier if there are corroborating reports.)

In civilian life I have counted to three with a close friend before jumping off a bridge only to look up and see a confused, "I didn't think he'd really do it," look on his face. Long nights with college friends working on our plan to save the world we realized that the military was the best way to get initial and free training, so I joined... and heard, "We didn't think you'd really do it."

It can be lonely on point. Especially when it becomes real and other people want to deal with the dreams.

But one time at work, a cell extraction on a psych in full excited delirium I realized that my cover officer outweighed me by over two hundred pounds and was a Hall of Fame wrestler... and I was taking point. And that was fine. The way it should be. I still tease him about it, though.

What a Lie a Half-Truth Can Be

Whenever I think about writing the civilian Use of Force manual, I think about building bridges. I think that if I can take these protesters and talking heads just a little bit into our world and make them see that violence isn't like in the movies, isn't like a video game they might understand a little bit. If I can show them that sometimes when an officer acts and the outcome is horrible it was still the best option. If I can just get them to understand that there are situations where not everyone is walking out and we won't all be friends afterwards and people are not Care Bears then maybe, just maybe, when an officer pulls a trigger and changes many lives forever (including his own) in profound and horrible ways they might not jump so quickly to scream "murder" and "fascist" and "cover-up". It's a dream I have.

I have to get over it. There is a small group that hate so much that no words, no reason, no logic and no experience is likely to break through. I watched a video today, a local production, an "expose" of a local shooting. They are voiciferous in their accusations of lies and cover-ups and the murder of a harmless, innocent, naked and injured man...and in doing so, they lie. Sometimes a half-truth, sometimes a lie of breathtaking boldness.

I don't want to watch the video again, so the things in quotation marks will be from memory, with the possible innacuracy inherent in that.

A demagogue screaming to the crowd: "They approached this defenseless man with guns drawn. Why didn't they call the paramedics?"

The paramedics were there, less than a hundred yards away and afraid to get any closer.

A commentator: "When an officer comes on the scene with a gun drawn and a loaded shotgun you know that in his mind he has already decided to use force."

The officers were there and armed to protect the firefighters who were trying to put out the three brushfires cause by the suspect's burning car. The same call that had alerted 911 of the fires had also said they heard gunshots. It was probably the tires on the car exploding in the heat, but the officers had no way of knowing that. Shots fired- you get your weapon out. Approaching a suspect when shots fired has been reported, you get your weapon out. Slow is dead.

The narrator: "When police murder someone they go on a witch hunt to find anything in the person's past to make him look bad. In this case, they could find nothing."

Bullshit. The suspect had just rear ended a car at 70 mph, forcing that woman off the road and then went for a second car before losing control himself. The threat's car wrecked and ignited. The threat attacked the first good samaritan who tried to help him and tried to lure others toward him with taunts. He stripped naked and prowled through a residential district growling at people and jumping up on a citizen's car and pounding on it. That's nothing?

The narrator again: "By their own admission, he was sitting quietly on the road. He needed medical attention, not to be abused and murdered. They Tased him. This can only be called torture."

The trouble with sitting quietly on the road in an altered mental state is that you might get run over. Or you might surprise somebody and have them swerve and get innocent people killed. Or you might change your mind and start attacking people. The officers can't take that chance and are required to act. He did need medical attention, but the paramedics were afraid to get closer unless he was handcuffed. If you think you can get handcuffs on someone in excited delirium with some nifty wrist locks or wrestling, you might have a shallow grave in your future. Taser was the option least likely to result in injury.

The demagogue again: "He had no gun. He had no knife. He was not a threat to these officers and they murdered him."

Where to begin? No one has ever been killed with bare hands? No officer has ever had their weapon taken away by a threat? Officer Lisa Alsobrooks Lawrence who was killed with her own gun by a man exhibiting the same symptoms would be comforted to know it. It would give her grave a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Lastly I need to justify the altered mental state allegation. Normal people don't, generally, try to run other people off the road. They don't attack people who try to help them. They don't strip off all their clothes and then pace through residential areas growling and howling. They usually respond to pain, such as the lacerations and burning from the car wreck. When confronted by officers with drawn weapons, people in a normal state of mind do what they are told to do. Shrugging off a taser, much less giggling and advancing, is a pretty good sign of an altered mental state. Lastly, normal people don't charge a gun. I feel pretty confidant in judging this young man to have been in an altered mental state.

What kind of altered mental state? This tends to be hard for civilians who want things to be right and just and make sense: It doesn't matter. Whether it was caused by grief or shock or adult-onset schizophrenia or drugs doesn't matter, not in the moment. People are more comfortable with force used on people who do drugs because there is a perception that it is more 'fair'. They had it coming. People should not be hurt for things they can't control, such as mental illness or shock.

It's a nice argument, but irrelevant. Officers don't use force to be fair. There is no justice or right or balance of good and evil with force and kindness. Officers use force to stop behavior (stop the shooting, the beating) or to compel behavior (turn over, handcuffs on). If someone must be cuffed and refuses, why he refused is not relevant. The cuffs must go on and the officers are required to use the minimum force that will safely make that happen. If the threat has an altered mental state that changes what force will work, the source of the mental state does not matter.

A dog savaging your child needs to be shot to prevent your child from dying. Does it matter whether the dog is mean or suffering from rabies? The behavior must be controlled and what steps are taken are based on the behavior.

Moving Well Versus Moving Right

Can't remember who said it, some Tai Chi guy in the intro to a book, but the words were something like, "Most Martial Artists train for years to try to develop the kind of power that they have naturally when they bang their shin into a coffee table in the dark."

Most reasonably athletic people move well. If you've ever "bucked bales" on a farm, thrown bales of hay into a truck and stacked them or ever spent some time digging ditches using a shovel and a pick, you're probably pretty good at coordinating arms, legs and hips into a powerful unit. Athletes in general move well. So do dancers. Basketball players learn to move- dribble, shoot, pass, screen, block- and try to do the motion well the way it needs to be done in the moment.

Martial artists too often are obsessed with moving right. With 'proper form'. Through training, they get this picture in their heads of what a punch or block should look like. Then they try to plug that picture into reality and make it fit.

A bunch of images here:

1) What is moving right? It's a memory of how someone else moved well. You disect your clearest memory of how Chogun Miyagi threw his best punch ever and you practice that one moment in time over and over, completely forgetting all the moments in time where Miyagi punched differently or didn't punch at all.

2) People start emulating proper form completely without regard to whether it works or not. That's fundamentally screwed up. This is where you get a young martial artist saying, "Sensei this doesn't work, he just blows through this block." And sensei replies, "Practice harder." Only in martial arts is practicing something that is not working considered a good idea. In other endeavors it is called 'reinforcing failure'.

3) The end image is that people who move right have a square peg and spend their time looking for a square hole for the peg to go into. People who move well can change the shape of their peg to fit the available hole.

3.1) One of the biggest dangers in martial arts is someone who has a square peg and has been trained (or brainwashed) so that they don't believe in, or can't see round holes. If that's too abstract, these are the people who say, "My knife defense didn't work because you attacked me wrong."

This is in my head because I've been working with a local JJ group on their groundfighting (note: groundfighting is not grappling). They know techniques and tricks- submissions, strangles, stuff like that- but they are very wooden and can't improvise. They know the right way to do X and they wait for the opportunity to arise. If it's a few degrees off, they don't recognize it.

There is no way to move, no way to stand, no position you can be in that doesn't have a vulnerability. By taking the mindset of doing things right, you limit yourself to opportunities that you have memorized and miss all the others right in front of you. You see the world through these lenses of 'right'.

Move well. Do well. Think well. See well. Don't lock your brain down into a rigid view of right. It doesn't hold up under stress.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Individuals change everything. One of the reasons that anecdotal evidence is not allowed in certain types of reasoned discourse and scientific inquiry is that people can be so weird. There is no event so horrible, no environment so emotionally damaging that we can't find someone, somewhere who throve there. There are no advantages so absolute that we can't point at people born with wealth, intelligence, beauty and access to power yet still wound up as absolute losers.

Exceptional people respond in exceptional ways. The people I like best have an uncanny ability to shape the world around them and shape themselves to do what they feel needs to be done.

One of the friends I admire most started with next to nothing. Born into poverty with a single parent, a racial minority, an intelligent and gentle soul in a place that valued strength and violence he has literally created himself and his world. He is strong, smart, balanced, successful. He is physically, spiritually and intellectually an example of K'ung Fu Tze's "Superior Man".

What a great anecdote. Clearly showing that with hard work and dedication anyone can...

That's the thing. Reality matters in the particulars, politics in the general. Who Steve is over-rides almost every possible restriction that life or chance can throw at him. He is a fighter and a winner. He hates losing and even more hates giving up.

The fact that one person did rise from those conditions only means that. Maybe it means that everyone can. But it doesn't even imply that everyone will.

That's simple, but it is more than that. Exceptional people respond in exceptional ways, but certain exceptional people need exceptional challenges to grow. Personally, I found out in college that when I took twenty hours and worked full time and worked out with the judo and fencing team and maintained good relationships, my grades were better. When I had no room for error I did much better. Who I am and what I've done is largely based on maintaining that level of pressure.

That's paltry, but think: Were it not for the Nazis would Churchill have ever been anything but a burned-out, alcoholic former Navy guy?

That's another side, too. The people who deal with the hard stuff well often deal with easy stuff poorly. Look up the life stories of Medal of Honor winners and read the litany of alcoholism and suicide. In some cases, exceptional people who never find exceptional challenges never become special at all. They sink into oblivion, maybe not even dreaming of what they might be.

The title of this is too metaphorical. Oysters make pearls to encase a bit of grit that got inside the shell and is irritating. An oyster with a perfectly happy life who never gets any impurity or irritation, never creates anything exceptional. It's just meat.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Hard Truths

You will die.

Everything you love will die. So hard to write, I want the things I love to last forever and delight my children's children's children. I want to write that all things change and take the word 'death' out of it...I want, I want, I want.

Your character is fragile. Read 'Night' and see what good people will do to those they love if they are hungry enough or scared enough or hopeless. Who you will be in twenty years will be as different as the callow youth of twenty years ago.

Who you think you are is a fragile fairy tale.

Rules contradict.

Social Dimensions change things. You do not work, live or love in a vacuum. Politics even enters into SWAT operations. That's not right, but it is true.
Corollary: sometimes, to everyone else, the politics are more important than the operation. In general, reality wins in the particular (My officers need the tools to protect themselves) and politics wins in the abstract (Officers are using too much force, something must be done).

We put these social disconnects on the shoulders of a very few people. There are people who deal professionally with a world made up almost entirely of things that are not the way the world should be- broken bodies and minds and shattered families and identities.
Corollary: They deal with these things specifically so that everyone else doesn't have to.
Sub-corollary: This allows people the freedom to pretend that these broken places really don't exist or are just like they are used to but with different props.
Corollary 2: This may be the most traumatic incident of your life, but something I do twice a week. Don't expect me to match your emotional involvement.

We put these social disconnects on the shoulders of a very few people- and then we punish them for adapting.

The best intentioned things will be exploited by bad people.
Corollary: If you are exploiting something designed to help people (such as abusing FMLA or the ADA or working under the table while accepting workman's comp) you are a bad person.

The only defense against violent evil people are good people who are more skilled at violence.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Chapter List

Jeff and a few others have asked what the book will be about. Here are the chapters:

The Rhinoceros and the Unicorn (working title)


Introduction: Metaphors
The Rhinoceros and the Unicorn
The Priests of Mars
The Super Stars
The Truth: About Me and About Violence
The Format of this Book

Section 1: The Matrix
1.1: The Tactical Matrix Example
1.2: The Violence Matrix

Section 2: How to Think
2.1 Assumptions and Epistemology
2.2 The Power of Assumption
2.3 Common Sources of Knowledge About Violence
2.4 Strategy Training
----Sidebar: A quick and dirty guide to not being successfully sued ----
2.5 Goals in Training
2.6 Thinking in the Moment

Section 3: Violence
3.1 Types of Violence
-----Sidebar: How Multiple Officers Decrease the Risk of Injury-----
3.2 The Four Basic Truths of Violent Assault
3.3 The Chemical Cocktail
-----Sidebar: Shock and Stupidity-----
3.4 Adapting to the Cocktail
3.5 The Context of Violence
3.6 Violence Happens in Places
3.7 Violence Happens in Time
--------Sidebar: Hostage Situations---------
3.8 Violence Happens Between People

Section 4: Threats
4.1 Threats ain’t Normal Folks
4.2 Types of Criminals
------Sidebar: The Continuum of Evil------
4.3 Special Circumstances: Mental Illness and Drugs
4.4 Rationalizations
4.5 What Makes a Violent Predator

Section 5: Training
5.1 The Flaw in the Drill- Static, Cooperative and Dynamic drills
5.2 Kata as a Training Exercise
5.3 Responses to the Four Basic Truths of Section 3.2
5.4 Operant Conditioning
5.5 Phases

Section 6: Making Physical Defense Work
6.1 Stages of DefenseThe Go Button
6.2 The ‘Go’ Button
6.3 The Golden Rule of Combat
6.4 Effects and Actions
6.5 The Big Three- Awareness, Initiative, Permission
-------Sidebar: Permission------

Section 7: After
7.1 After
7.2 Acute Events
7.3 For Supervisors
7.4 Cumulative Events
------Sidebar: Baggage------
7.5 Dealing with the Survivor/Student
7.6 Changes
7.7 Enlightenment and Combat


Thursday, June 07, 2007


Just started "Night" by Elie Wiesel. Read it. Have your children read it, even if they are too young. Not just to recount the horror of the holocaust. Not just so that we will never forget what man can do to man.

So that we can see what man will let others do to him. So that we see and remember the price of denial. So that we remember what happens to good men who rely on hope and the charity, intervention and force of arms of other good men.

Hope is not a plan. Denial and lassitude is not an effective strategy.

So far in the book, the moments that shriek with the most plaintive despair are those few times when the people could have done something and didn't. Those are the moments that haunt the author and probably why he spent the rest of his life speaking for the dead.

A dear friend spoke of "agency". It is will, your ability to make decisions about your life, your ability to act on your life. She is amazed and apalled at how many people give up their agency. How many go along. How many smile and nod against their beliefs. How many count on others to take care of them and fix problems (and do not think for one second that that letting someone fix your problems or feed you or supply medicine to your children is not giving up agency- dependence is slavery).

"Night" is a story of many people who gave up their agency and watched their people die.

Do you see the paralells between the last post and this one? When is not messing with a system until you understand it merely biding time? When is it giving up agency?

When it is a decision.
Refusing to make a decision until you have gathered facts is one thing.
Refusing to gather facts or ignoring them to avoid making a decision is another.

I tell my students not to listen to me- to question, to make up their own minds, to be skeptical-especially of me. When they really need what I've taught them, they will be terribly, terribly alone. "Never, ever, ever delegate responsibility for your own safety! Not to me, not to the police, not to some self-proclaimed expert!" Broader but more succint: "Maintain your agency."

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Complex Systems and Political Orientation

Very few mature people identify themselves as "liberal" or "conservative". There are different things that you value to different levels and if you choose one concentration, you earn a label. It's immature and unnatural to take the label first and then choose the values. Like anything that gets tribal though, once you identify with a group it becomes easier to find information that supports the groups other beliefs.

In an age where the conservatives took up the banner of old school liberals (smaller government, more individual power) and neo-cons somehow used that power base to do exactly the opposite and modern liberals have embraced a fascism of political correctness and a philosophy of diversity that arose directly in defense of Jim Crow (see "The Closing of the American Mind" for how Southern philosophers arguing that the North had no right to mess with the culture of the South resulted in the new philosophical concept of cultural diversity and cultural equality)... it gets very confusing.

I thought of something this morning and I want to look at it- complex systems and how the "people labeled as" conservative or liberal, hereafter known as PLCs and PLLs, look at them.

Aside- I hate these labels and very few apply to anyone I know. From the etymology (conservative = avoiding change; liberal = generous) to the ties with political parties and history (the Republicans went to war to free the slaves, the Democrats tried to stop them; Democratic senators tried to stop the repeal of Jim Crow) their views on war (until the Reagan years, other than the Civil War, the US had only ever gone into a war under a Democratic president); their self-serving bullshit (banning "9 1/2 Weeks " is censorship, banning "Huckleberry Finn" is "cultural sensitivity").... grrrrr the labels just don't make sense. At all.

Anyway, there are two issues where I get labeled a PLC and where people I respect have stated that one side is Conservative, one side Liberal. It occured to me today that these two issues have a lot in common. One is global warming. The other is progressive politics.

I'm a PLC on global warming. My usual smart-ass explanation is that I was in grade school in the seventies back when the exact same emissions needed to be stopped because they were bringing on the next Ice Age. When pushed, the next line of defense is to bring up a couple of facts- every article I've seen challenging the theory was written by a climatologist or meteorologist, if you run the names of the PhDs who sign all the "Stop Global Warming Petitions" on google, I got almost nothing but social scientists. Krakatoa put more particulate emissions in the atmosphere in a few days than all of humans have in all of human history. The amount of "greenhouse gasses" we put in the atmosphere each year is less than the margin of error we have in measuring atmospheric gas concentrations...

But this is what's really going on- from both sides- and I think it points to some basic ways that different people see the world. Fact- the temperature has risen. Fact- it will be very bad if it rises too much. Fact- global climatology is unbelievably complex and no one thoroughly understands it. The rest are possibilities- humans may or may not be causing the rise in temperature. Humans may or may not be able to change the trend. It may be too late. It may be in the nick of time. But basically just three facts.

The PLLs look at the first two facts and decide that something must be done. I don't think they ignore the third fact, they just decide that it is better to do something than nothing. They look at the things that were changed by collective action and go for it.

The PLCs look at the third fact harder. In a really, really complex system, what are the odds that we will make things better? Worse? Don't get excited, wait. Be sure.

Another aside- Fighting is an incredibly complex subject, and professional warriors are inherently conservative. They stick with what works. When any mistake could result in your own messy and painful death, you tend to limit experimentation in real encounters. This means that they gather as much information as possible before deciding to change tactics. Any action is risky. Any untested action in a complex system is chancy- a different thing (See Risk versus Chance). The only time a good fighter takes chances is when death is almost certain if he doesn't.

Given the mind numbing complexity and importance of the weather, the PLCs want some guarantee that screwing with a machine we don't understand won't make it worse (is there any possibility that the conservation movement of the seventies designed to prevent the imminent Ice Age might have caused global warming?) In the PLC's eyes, they look at things humans have tried to fix, such as bringing rabbits and cane toads to Australia, and don't like the odds.

You can see this as a fear reaction, or as prudence. Largely depending on whether it is your reaction or the other persons. The opposite reaction, the PLL reaction, is that we don't need to understand things to fix them, especially if it is important. And you can read this as childish or heroic, your choice.

Progressive politics is similar. PLCs feel that the laws and the leadership should follow history and community standards. PLLs feel that there is a better way, a better standard than the community standard, a brighter future than the past and push to make these changes happen.

Again, though, these changes happen in a complex environment- human society. People in action have changed things- slavery is rare in the industrialized west. The transformation of religion from a fact worth killing over to an opinion was profound. Many lasting changes came by force of arms. The PLCs look at the success rates of attempts to force change and are disappointed. Programs based on good ideas are abused; backlash is often generated that may dwarf the original problem. How many of you went to an Eastern European country before 1986 and saw the bleak, filthy, polluted warrens of what was designed to be a human-engineered worker's paradise?

Lasting change has come more slowly, so it seems. But there has been good fast change sparked by moments, too. Rosa Parks. So here too, the PLLs see that if change is necessary enough, the goal worthy enough, it's not necessary to understand the system... and again, it is heroic or childish, depending on if it works.

Bookkeeping- Way Behind at 38

Halfway through 2007 and I should have read 50 books right now. I'm a little behind. So far:

Logic- Aristotle
Documenting Discipline and Discharge
Civil Rights Law
Poetics- Aristotle
Investigations Handbook
Investigator Interviewing Tips
Secret Weapons of Jujutsu
Case File XXXX (not naming these here)
Your Smart Puppy
Another Case File- XXX
There Must be More Than This
Fighter's Fact Book 2
Sea Change
Plutarch's Lives
Ditch Medicine
G.R.A.P.L.E. Course Material
Lessons of Terrorism (This one was really bad)
Terror at Beslan
Legal Writing in Plain English
The Prosecutors
Rights of Law Enforcement Officers
Flags of our Fathers
The River of Doubt
Jiu-jitsu (Lowell, 1943)
American Law and the Trained Fighter
Psychological First Aid Field Guide
A Grief Remembered
The Manchester Document
One Bullet Away
On Bullshit (Not nearly as good as it sounded)
My FBI (Hmmmm)
Principle-Centered Leadership
Final Exam: A Surgeons Reflections on Mortality
Achilles in Vietnam
Killing Rain (fiction)
They Saw it Happen

So, a couple of classics, lots of legal stuff to get up to speed for the new assignment, some history and biography, backround and threat profiles for team stuff; a very few practical skills and only a couple of martial arts books.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A Right to Competency

Troops expect and have a right to competent supervision.

Actual leadership skills are great. Technical and tactical superiority is outstanding. But basic competence in your leadership is a right. The people leading you must know the job.

Our agency is preparing to raise up its next generation of junior management. Some of the people on the list are good. Some are incompetent in their present position. I don't know if it is common in big organizations or it is a byproduct of the combination of a strong union and a government job, but incompetence doesn't appear to be a bar to promotion. Many of the people who suck at the job dream of supervising it. I really don't get it.

In "Achilles in Vietnam" the author pointed out that betrayal by a supervisor is one of the key precursors to PTSD. It's not always betrayal. Sometimes it is just a decision or a series of decisions so incompetent that you almost lose faith in the entire system. How did someone who went through the same training I did arrive at that boneheaded decision?

If you read books about people in stressful situations, you'll see these moments a lot and the anger and disillusionment (is that a word?) that immediately follows.

Should someone who puts the thin-skinned Humvees in front of the tanks while crossing a hostile city be running a battalion?

Should someone who found suspicious white powder in an envelop, then scooped it off the table back into the envelop with his bare hands and continued eating be supervising a security team?

Should someone who decided that "less lethal" weapons looked scarier than real guns and might not look good on TV and ordered you to address crowd control with only lethal weapons be in charge of a tactical team?

Should someone who gets lost in a building be in charge of that building?

These are basic competence issues.

I want more. I want good leaders who understand that there are only two priorities- the mission and the troops. Smart enough to find the safest way to get things done; flexible enough to go off plan when the plan fails; trusted enough that the troops will believe and follow.

But damn, competency as a minimum. Please.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Swelling With Pride

Friday the team was called out. A cell extraction on a dangerous, violent psych inmate who had to be transported to a mental hospital and medicated. The other team was on call, their Team Leader is new, I wasn't going to show... until I got the phone call that they might be short for a shield team.

It was Mike's op. I was just an extra body. He planned, cool and efficient. The only glitch, as always, came from an excess of efficiency. Some team members staged in the perfect place instead of the usual place and it took a few minutes for the rest to adapt- but that's something we've always encouraged on the team: initiative, taking advantage of opportunities, getting better each time.

When it was time, the team moved- shields, black armor, faces covered. The threat was about six foot or a little under, 240-260 pounds, stark naked with feces on his hands and feet from the shit (his own) that he had been throwing.

Watching Mike work, I was so proud. He took his mask off. He talked slowly and gently. Mike motioned the rest of the team to stay out of sight and told one member, who looks like a friendly kid, to take off his mask and come talk.

The threat let himself be cuffed and sat down on the restraint board. No struggle, no fight, no injuries. Smooth, friendly professionalism. A perfect operation.

Reading this, I don't think you can know what that means to me. I know how these guys can fight- especially Mike, a former Marine, a jail guard, a tactical team member and now a Team Leader- and they don't feel that they have to. The confidence.

I've brought a lot to the team. Our hand to hand and DTs are not like anything I've seen in another agency; our cell extraction system is faster and safer than the standard taught by the academy and the feds- but if there is one thing I want to be remembered for, one legacy, this is what I want it to be- that I was part of the early leadership that taught that it was okay NOT to fight.

Trained fighters in armor with a serious threat- too many people would feel a compulsion to use the training. It's okay not to... and it has gone so far as to become part of our culture. It's not just right, it's obvious...

I am so proud.