Category Archives: books

Rise of the Warrior Poets..i mean cops..i mean…

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article in August of last year that caught my attention. It focused on the militarization of the US police force. “Rise of the Warrior Cop“, which showcased the exponential increase in SWOT teams across the US.

Book image below with same title/name.

rise of warrior cop

From the article in WSJ …”the country’s first official SWAT team started in the late 1960s in Los Angeles. By 1975, there were approximately 500 such units. Today, there are thousands. According to surveys conducted by the criminologist Peter Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University, just 13% of towns between 25,000 and 50,000 people had a SWAT team in 1983. By 2005, the figure was up to 80%.”

In today’s NYT, they show a very captivating photo on the home page of NYT.com of three armed SWOT type commandos rushing a protestor in Ferguson, MO. The article suggests this man was protesting a shooting. If so, why all the use of force? Curious to learn more.

military style domestic peace keeping

The question that starts to form could be…how many police officers do we need carrying sub machine guns, bayonets, or transporting in armored personnel carriers? This question can be viewed through the prism of (a) number of violent crimes committed over the last 30+ years and (b) number of crimes committed by assault rifles (and their ilk) vs smaller handguns and less powerful “force multipliers”.  Thus, maybe SWOT style responses are warranted in some cases, others possibly not (see Deterrence Theory as a possible organizing principle).

Anecdotal evidence suggests there is love affair with all things commando in the US, from navy seal books such as The Trident to modern day films such as Act of Valor or Hollywood blockbusters like Lone Survivor.

Presumably this love affair has a direct implication on how we staff our domestic policing forces and/or is a direct outcome of the much talked about “military industrial complex” in the US.

The End of the Affair on audible.com

Going back to world war II genre…I recently listened to an audio book “The End of the Affair” by Graham Greene.

It was voiced by Colin Firth, who did a bang up job as Maurice Bendrix, the protagonist. With many catholic underpinnings, this book highlights a couple’s struggle with faith, during the bombings of WWII, their ability to cope with their affair, their confrontation with disease and ultimate demise. I highly recommend the audio experience…

end of the affair

Leadership at Google, talent and education

Interesting article on how Google’s HR team uses “data” to uncover leadership qualities in its employees. Their findings may surprise a bit…”successful managers”, or however they define such qualities, are not necessarily correlated to their undergrad/bschool, SAT boards or pedigree.

Its probably some combination of autonomy, gumption, grit and innate talent?

google

 

 

On this topic, i recently finished a wonderful book by Amanda Ripley titled “Smartest Kids in the World”. This book outlines teaching methods and approach in disparate countries like Korea, Finland and Poland. The book juxtaposes these approaches to teaching math vis a vis “how its done” in the US. Fascinating if you have children and think about the US education system, if you are interested in US competitiveness and labor, how math influences skill sets for the work population, etc…smartest kids

The Civil War – recommended books to read

lincolnCatching up on a few period pieces on the Civil War. With the anniversary and ceremony at Gettysberg, a few books i would recommend. “The Civil War” by Bruce Catton,Gettysburg: Voices from the Front” by Robert Child and “Lincoln” by David Herbert Donald. Read these three, covering the gamut and providing a POV on the soldiers, the front and the political leadership from the day.

Understanding the past and how our country was formed…a fascinating topic.

A country at war…

I just finished “No Easy Day” by Mark Owen. With our societies cultural fascination of SEALs, figured I would pick up the latest shoot ’em thriller at the airport this week while flying back to LA from Rochester. It read quick and I was done by the time wheels were down on the west coast.

No Easy Day

Not sure the hardback illuminated the training and tactics of special forces any more than say “Teamates: SEALs at War” by Barry Enoch, or “Lone Survivor” by Marcus Luttrell.  It was explicit and concise in the actual take down of UBL during the mission, but the rest was too vague for my satisfaction.

I actually found “No Easy Day” more of cursory glance at the long arc of our proxy war against Pakistan than insightful commentary into the training and deployment of the SEALs. While it never delved into the geo-political nuances of fighting “wars” on various fronts, it provided insight into a warrior’s motivation and personal sacrifice for that career choice.

I am still a bit confused on why the author broke omerta? Maybe a bone to pick with his former teams, a political statement (but if that was the case, the book was missing any explicit verbal attack of our commander in chief or other political leaders)? Maybe he just had something to get off his chest and wanted to be published.

The bright side..the book did contain some interesting photos of the operator’s kit.

Youth and the power of idea…

Moneyball is a well worn subject…but since I enjoy Michael Lewis, I spare no expense in mentioning his work. I appreciate circling back to this writer and his progeny.  On the topic…an interesting article on innovation and the mavens who were under the age of 30 when starting their companies. The question poised is “does one need to be young to be innovative”.

Movie to see – Mongol

After recently finishing Jack Weatherford’s “Genghis Khan”, a NYT best seller and one of the best historical/fictions I have read in some time, I sat through Sergei Bodrov’s “Mongol” film.

mongol

Recommended by a southern california icon, an arbiter of historical reading material, a Mr. Thomas Catanese, I picked up the novel and sat for a spell.  The book took on historical facts and wove a story line filling in the gaps where historical “information” faltered. With years of chinese then soviet oppression an attempt by both regimes to bury the notion of a strong Mongol nation….Jack’s team of historians attempted to walk the steppes and reconstruct his life.  The film loosely followed the time-line and documentation from the book, but added the traditional hollywood flair (with hints of idyllic settings, dream-like recreations of Genghis’ chats with The Eternal Blue Sky deities, etc).

Tadanobu Asano in the movie “Mongol” was absolutely brilliant. He was able to portray a god-like historical figure, a military genius, a man filled with suffering while also providing a human face as he went to great lengths to find his missing wife Borte and bring a ravaged steppe people together under one rule.This Oscar nominated film is the first in a trilogy spanning the life of the great Genghis.

As Geoffrey Chaucer once penned: “This noble king was called Genghis King, Who in his time was of so great renown, That there was nowhere in no region, So excellent a lord in all things.”

With many of western europe’s scientific and cultural advancements resulting from trade with Khan’s empire in the east, we owe a bit to his conquering of the known world during his reign in the 1200s. From Korea to Hungary, his lightening fast armies were studied by Hitler and Stalin for tactical superiority on the battelfield. His was the last great tribal empire of world history. He influenced Jawaharlal Nehru, the father of Indian independence as he sat in jail. He wrote about the great leader to his daughter Indira, influencing an entire sub-continent and their quest for independence.