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Friday, August 27, 2010

On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs

By LTC (RET) Dave Grossman
Author of "On Killing."

Honor never grows old, and honor rejoices the heart of age. It does so because honor is, finally, about defending those noble and worthy things that deserve defending, even if it comes at a high cost. In our time, that may mean social disapproval, public scorn, hardship, persecution, or as always,even death itself.

The question remains: What is worth defending? What is worth dying for? What is worth living for? - William J. Bennett - in a lecture to the United States Naval Academy November 24, 1997

One Vietnam veteran, an old retired colonel, once said this to me: "Most of the people in our society are sheep. They are kind, gentle, productive creatures who can only hurt one another by accident."

This is true. Remember, the murder rate is six per 100,000 per year, and the aggravated assault rate is four per 1,000 per year. What this means is that the vast majority of Americans are not inclined to hurt one another. Some estimates say that two million Americans are victims of violent crimes every year, a tragic, staggering number, perhaps an all-time record rate of violent crime. But there are almost 300 million Americans, which means that the odds of being a victim of violent crime is considerably less than one in a hundred on any given year. Furthermore, since many violent crimes are committed by repeat offenders, the actual number of violent citizens is considerably less than two million.

Thus there is a paradox, and we must grasp both ends of the situation: We may well be in the most violent times in history, but violence is still remarkably rare. This is because most citizens are kind, decent people who are not capable of hurting each other, except by accident or under extreme provocation. They are sheep.

I mean nothing negative by calling them sheep. To me it is like the pretty, blue robin's egg. Inside it is soft and gooey but someday it will grow into something wonderful. But the egg cannot survive without its hard blue shell. Police officers, soldiers, and other warriors are like that shell, and someday the civilization they protect will grow into something wonderful.? For now, though, they need warriors to protect them from the predators.

"Then there are the wolves," the old war veteran said, "and the wolves feed on the sheep without mercy." Do you believe there are wolves out there who will feed on the flock without mercy? You better believe it. There are evil men in this world and they are capable of evil deeds. The moment you forget that or pretend it is not so, you become a sheep. There is no safety in denial. 

"Then there are sheepdogs," he went on, "and I'm a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf."

If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen, a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath, a wolf.

But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have then? A sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero's path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed

Let me expand on this old soldier's excellent model of the sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. We know that the sheep live in denial, that is what makes them sheep. They do not want to believe that there is evil in the world. They can accept the fact that fires can happen, which is why they want fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, fire alarms and fire exits throughout their kids' schools.

But many of them are outraged at the idea of putting an armed police officer in their kid's school. Our children are thousands of times more likely to be killed or seriously injured by school violence than fire, but the sheep's only response to the possibility of violence is denial. The idea of someone coming to kill or harm their child is just too hard, and so they chose the path of denial.

The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. He looks a lot like the wolf. He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, can not and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheep dog who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed. The world cannot work any other way, at least not in a representative democracy or a republic such as ours.

Still, the sheepdog disturbs the sheep. He is a constant reminder that there are wolves in the land. They would prefer that he didn't tell them where to go, or give them traffic tickets, or stand at the ready in our airports in camouflage fatigues holding an M-16. The sheep would much rather have the sheepdog cash in his fangs, spray paint himself white, and go, "Baa."

Until the wolf shows up. Then the entire flock tries desperately to hide behind one lonely sheepdog.

The students, the victims, at Columbine High School were big, tough high school students, and under ordinary circumstances they would not have had the time of day for a police officer. They were not bad kids; they just had nothing to say to a cop. When the school was under attack, however, and SWAT teams were clearing the rooms and hallways, the officers had to physically peel those clinging, sobbing kids off of them. This is how the little lambs feel about their sheepdog when the wolf is at the door.

Look at what happened after September 11, 2001 when the wolf pounded hard on the door. Remember how America, more than ever before, felt differently about their law enforcement officers and military personnel?

Remember how many times you heard the word hero?

Understand that there is nothing morally superior about being a sheepdog; it is just what you choose to be.

Also understand that a sheepdog is a funny critter: He is always sniffing around out on the perimeter, checking the breeze, barking at things that go bump in the night, and yearning for a righteous battle. That is, the young sheepdogs yearn for a righteous battle. The old sheepdogs are a little older and wiser, but they move to the sound of the guns when needed right along with the young ones.

Here is how the sheep and the sheepdog think differently. The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog lives for that day. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, most of the sheep, that is, most citizens in America said, "Thank God I wasn't on one of those planes." The sheepdogs, the warriors, said, "Dear God, I wish I could have been on one of those planes. Maybe I could have made a difference." When you are truly transformed into a warrior and have truly invested yourself into warriorhood, you want to be there. You want to be able to make a difference.

There is nothing morally superior about the sheepdog, the warrior, but he does have one real advantage. Only one. And that is that he is able to survive and thrive in an environment that destroys 98 percent of the population. There was research conducted a few years ago with individuals convicted of violent crimes. These cons were in prison for serious, predatory crimes of violence: assaults, murders and killing law enforcement officers. The vast majority said that they specifically targeted victims by body language: slumped walk, passive behavior and lack of awareness. They chose their victims like big cats do in Africa, when they select one out of the herd that is least able to protect itself.

Some people may be destined to be sheep and others might be genetically primed to be wolves or sheepdogs. But I believe that most people can choose which one they want to be, and I'm proud to say that more and more Americans are choosing to become sheepdogs.

Seven months after the attack on September 11, 2001, Todd Beamer was honored in his hometown of Cranbury, New Jersey. Todd, as you recall, was the man on Flight 93 over Pennsylvania who called on his cell phone to alert an operator from United Airlines about the hijacking. When he learned of the other three passenger planes that had been used as weapons, Todd dropped his phone and uttered the words, "Let's roll," which authorities believe was a signal to the other passengers to confront the terrorist hijackers. In one hour, a transformation occurred among the passengers - athletes, business people and parents. -- from sheep to sheepdogs and together they fought the wolves, ultimately saving an unknown number of lives on the ground.

There is no safety for honest men except by believing all possible evil of evil men. - Edmund Burke

Here is the point I like to emphasize, especially to the thousands of police officers and soldiers I speak to each year. In nature the sheep, real sheep, are born as sheep. Sheepdogs are born that way, and so are wolves. They didn't have a choice. But you are not a critter. As a human being, you can be whatever you want to be. It is a conscious, moral decision.

If you want to be a sheep, then you can be a sheep and that is okay, but you must understand the price you pay. When the wolf comes, you and your loved ones are going to die if there is not a sheepdog there to protect you. If you want to be a wolf, you can be one, but the sheepdogs are going to hunt you down and you will never have rest, safety, trust or love. But if you want to be a sheepdog and walk the warrior's path, then you must make a conscious and moral decision every day to dedicate, equip and prepare yourself to thrive in that toxic, corrosive moment when the wolf comes knocking at the door.

For example, many officers carry their weapons in church.? They are well concealed in ankle holsters, shoulder holsters or inside-the-belt holsters tucked into the small of their backs.? Anytime you go to some form of religious service, there is a very good chance that a police officer in your congregation is carrying.

You will never know if there is such an individual in your place of worship, until the wolf appears to massacre you and your loved ones.

I was training a group of police officers in Texas, and during the break, one officer asked his friend if he carried his weapon in church. The other cop replied, "I will never be caught without my gun in church." I asked why he felt so strongly about this, and he told me about a cop he knew who was at a church massacre in Ft. Worth, Texas in 1999. In that incident, a mentally deranged individual came into the church and opened fire, gunning down fourteen people. He said that officer believed he could have saved every life that day if he had been carrying his gun. His own son was shot, and all he could do was throw himself on the boy's body and wait to die. That cop looked me in the eye and said, "Do you have any idea how hard it would be to live with yourself after that?"

Some individuals would be horrified if they knew this police officer was carrying a weapon in church. They might call him paranoid and would probably scorn him. Yet these same individuals would be enraged and would call for "heads to roll" if they found out that the airbags in their cars were defective, or that the fire extinguisher and fire sprinklers in their kids' school did not work. They can accept the fact that fires and traffic accidents can happen and that there must be safeguards against them.

Their only response to the wolf, though, is denial, and all too often their response to the sheepdog is scorn and disdain. But the sheepdog quietly asks himself, "Do you have and idea how hard it would be to live with yourself if your loved ones attacked and killed, and you had to stand there helplessly because you were unprepared for that day?"

It is denial that turns people into sheep. Sheep are psychologically destroyed by combat because their only defense is denial, which is counterproductive and destructive, resulting in fear, helplessness and horror when the wolf shows up.

Denial kills you twice. It kills you once, at your moment of truth when you are not physically prepared: you didn't bring your gun, you didn't train. Your only defense was wishful thinking. Hope is not a strategy. Denial kills you a second time because even if you do physically survive, you are psychologically shattered by your fear helplessness and horror at your moment of truth.

Gavin de Becker puts it like this in Fear Less, his superb post-9/11 book, which should be required reading for anyone trying to come to terms with our current world situation: "...denial can be seductive, but it has an insidious side effect. For all the peace of mind deniers think they get by saying it isn't so, the fall they take when faced with new violence is all the more unsettling."

Denial is a save-now-pay-later scheme, a contract written entirely in small print, for in the long run, the denying person knows the truth on some level.

And so the warrior must strive to confront denial in all aspects of his life, and prepare himself for the day when evil comes. If you are warrior who is legally authorized to carry a weapon and you step outside without that weapon, then you become a sheep, pretending that the bad man will not come today. No one can be "on" 24/7, for a lifetime. Everyone needs down time. But if you are authorized to carry a weapon, and you walk outside without it, just take a deep breath, and say this to yourself...


This business of being a sheep or a sheep dog is not a yes-no dichotomy. It is not an all-or-nothing, either-or choice. It is a matter of degrees, a continuum. On one end is an abject, head-in-the-sand-sheep and on the other end is the ultimate warrior. Few people exist completely on one end or the other. Most of us live somewhere in between. Since 9-11 almost everyone in America took a step up that continuum, away from denial. The sheep took a few steps toward accepting and appreciating their warriors, and the warriors started taking their job more seriously. The degree to which you move up that continuum, away from sheephood and denial, is the degree to which you and your loved ones will survive, physically and psychologically at your moment of truth.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

There Is No 'Ground Zero Mosque'

Keith Olbermann
Countdown Commentary

Reported by
Huffington Post
August 18, 2010

The "Ground Zero Mosque" is many things, but it is neither at ground zero nor is it really a mosque.

So argued Keith Olbermann during Monday (8/16) night's edition of "Countdown" on MSNBC.

In a Special Comment lasting twelve minutes, the commentator ripped into the case being made by critics of the Cordoba House. The proposed Muslim community center would be located two blocks away from the site of the World Trade Center, which was destroyed on September 11, 2001 by Islamic extremists.

The thought of building the new facility -- which would include a two-story prayer center -- so close to the site of America's worst terrorist attack, one perpetrated by followers of Islam, has been unsettling to a wide range of public figures, from Sarah Palin to Harry Reid. But it has also inspired people like Olbermann and others who hope to encourage religious worship that doesn't resemble the extremism behind al Qaeda.

Olbermann opened his monologue by reciting from "First They Came...," a poem that many attribute to Pastor Martin Niemöller. He went on to question Newt Gingrich's grasp of history and the significance of Cordoba, Spain. And he didn't exactly stop there.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Swedes Protect WikiLeaks, Hire Assange as Columnist

August 14, 2010

STOCKHOLM (Rixstep) — Julian Assange's visit in the Swedish capital achieved several things. Assange will be writing for Aftonbladet and WikiLeaks will be applying for full source protection under Swedish constitutional law.

Assange already works with the New York Times, the Guardian, and Der Spiegel. But he's not yet worked as a columnist for any publication. Starting now that will change.

Assange met Aftonbladet's editor in chief Jan Helin yesterday.

'It's no coincidence that I'm going to be writing for a Swedish paper. The Swedish publicist culture and Swedish law have supported us from the beginning', said Assange.

Aftonbladet Interview Transcript

'What will you write about?'
'About press issues and about what's happening around the world. There might be some scoops.'

'Does this mean Aftonbladet will work together with WikiLeaks?'
'We're not going to rule that out.'

'Why work with the media in this way?'
'We promise our sources maximum exposure of their materials.'

'How often will you be writing?'
'Once a month.'

'You've been under a lot of pressure from the Pentagon and the White House.'
'Yes, unbelievable pressure. The White House tried rhetorical tricks and spread lies on the sly about us. Journalists have to be more on their guard about what's said about us. But we also got a lot of support.'

'Have you been threatened?'
'Yes. The US defence department made three demands. That we destroy all materials we've published on Afghanistan, that we destroy all other materials we've not yet published, and that if we don't obey, they'll force us to do it.'

'Force you? How?
'They didn't say.'

'But WikiLeaks won't back down?'
'Of course not. We don't accept such threats. We'll continue our mission. The Pentagon's demands must be emphatically rejected.'

'What does the future look like?'
'We need more money. We're getting more materials than we can handle today. We need to hire more help. We've received $1 million in donations so far this year but it's not enough.'

Sweden Important for WikiLeaks

Sweden is important for WikiLeaks. The country has an industry for a new type of refugee: journalists and publicists, says Julian Assange. 'Swedes should be proud of their protection of freedom of the press.'

Assange is aware of foreign minister Carl Bildt's claim there are no ongoing formal discussions with the the US on the subject of WikiLeaks but he's aware of informal discussions taking place in other countries - it's 'standard procedure', he says.

'I assume informal contacts have been established in Sweden. But we'll have to wait a bit longer for proof', he says.

WikiLeaks are actively soliciting this information from contacts within the Swedish government. 'We have people in Sweden currently working on it', Assange says.

WikiLeaks will be applying for a Swedish certificate of publication ('utgivningsbevis') next week to guarantee that the organisation will be protected by Swedish constitutional law, even though they've already been offered such protection from two Swedish publications. This Swedish constitutional protection increases support for WikiLeaks, says Assange.

'But we're dealing with organisations that don't obey the law - we're dealing with intelligence agencies', says Assange.

15,000 More

WiliLeaks plan to release a further 15,000 documents hopefully in the coming fortnight. 'We have a responsibility to get this out into the world and to the Afghan people.' Assange is convinced Sweden and the US are working together to try to stop the coming leaks - Sweden plays a big part in their distribution.

As to a close collaboration with Sweden: 'I don't know how much closer we can get', says Assange.

Responsibility to the Afghan People

'We have a responsibility to the Afghan people', says Assange, 'where hundreds of people are killed each week. We should be able to publish again in a fortnight if we can keep working at the same tempo.'

'We publish raw materials without analysis or interpretation. Then it's up to journalists, researchers, and the public to review them.'

Diary Dig

For that reason WikiLeaks now launch a website to help 'translate' materials: Diary Dig.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

New Outrages Keep Gushing From BP

by Jim Hightower
August 11, 2010

With BP's well capped and CEO Tony Hayward exiled to Russia, perhaps you thought that surely there will be no additional revelations about BP to enrage you. But now comes this: prison labor.

In its national PR blitz to buff up its image, the oil giant has loudly been boasting that it has hired devastated, out-of-work local people to handle the clean-up. Many have been hired, but the people themselves say not nearly enough.

The Nation magazine now reports a big reason for the shortfall - BP has been using inmates to do much of the shoveling and scooping to remove oil from Louisiana beaches.

In the early days of the cleanup, crews suddenly appeared wearing scarlet pants and white t-shirts with bold red letters spelling out, "Inmate Labor." Investigative reporter Abe Louise Young writes that the sight of prison laborers outraged the local community, so they were removed.

Not the inmates, the uniforms. Now they wear BP shirts, jeans and rubber boots with no prison markings, and they are moved to and from the job in unmarked white vans.

No officials with BP or the feds could or would tell Young how many inmates are being used or what they're being paid. However, a local sheriff's official told Young, "They're not getting paid - it's part of their sentence."

But guess who is getting paid for this convict labor? BP. 

It's getting paid by you and me. Under a little-known tax provision passed during the Bush regime, corporations can get a "work opportunity tax credit" of $2,400 for every work release inmate they hire.

And that's not all we're subsidizing.

For example, BP, which rented the drilling rig from Transocean Corp., used a special tax break to write off 70 percent of the rent it paid. Seventy percent!

This added up to a savings of $225,000 a day for BP.

Also, back in 1999, Transocean deliberately moved its corporate address offshore in order to dodge its tax obligations to our country. It relocated from Houston to the Cayman Islands, then to Switzerland - slick moves that have allowed the giant corporation to avoid paying $1.8 billion it owed in U.S. taxes.

No industry gets the absurd array of subsidies that Big Oil now enjoys - subsidies at every stage of its operations, including the ones used by BP and Transocean to search for oil in our public waters. As one political leader put it in 2005, "With $55 oil, we don't need incentives to the oil and gas companies to explore."

That was George W. Bush talking! Five years later, oil is $80 a barrel and the industry is pocketing record profits - yet the giveaways continue.

Again and again, BP has promised that it would pay all cleanup costs for the mess it made. Now, however, the British-based oil giant has quietly told investors that it expects to get a $10-billion subsidy from Uncle Sugar to help cover the costs.

Say what? Not only did the company's top executives assure us that this whole god-awful mess would be on their dime, but so did our top government officials.

As President Obama flatly declared in May, "We will demand they pay for every dime they owe for the damage they have done." Even Rep. Joe Barton - the GOP gooberhead who so obsequiously apologized to BP's CEO for America's insistence that he set up a corporate fund to compensate victims - was forced to backtrack and say that, of course, he expects BP to pay the tab.

So what is this $10 billion hit on us taxpayers? 

It's another little corporate gotcha that lobbyists quietly got tucked into our tax code, allowing huge firms to grab a credit for up to 35-percent of their losses. The damages and cleanup being paid by BP, says one tax expert, are "just another cost of doing business," so they qualify for all applicable corporate breaks. After all, says another expert, while BP said it would pay the costs of the cleanup, it "never promised that it would not seek any deductions" to recoup those costs from American taxpayers.

Tricky, huh?

© 2010
National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the book, Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow [1], Jim Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be - consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.

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