Friday, December 14, 2012

Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut

The first time I fired a gun was when I was about nine years old. Since then, I’ve not only shot guns on many occasions (indoor ranges, outdoor ranges, etc.) but I’ve seen many films that feature guns therein. I’ve seen a lot of television that discuss and/or involve guns and shooting, some of which are fiction and some of which are simply discussion about the use of guns on some level.

What happened today in Connecticut doesn’t change my feeling about guns or gun control or the Second Amendment. It makes me wonder, however, what we’re doing as a society that leads people to do this – in schools, in movie theaters, shopping malls, and in other public places. If guns were outlawed, would this type of thing occur in different ways? Would these disturbed individuals who would otherwise choose to shoot defenseless people – children less than ten years old – would they find other means to kill? Or is it a visceral thrill of sorts to use a gun to take the lives of innocents? I don’t pretend to know the answers to these questions, and I don’t care at all about the individual(s) who carry out these mass death sentences, culminating with their own deaths. I don’t think there is any way we can understand it. However, with each incident, people clamor for gun control, and that bothers me.

It doesn’t bother me because I’m a gun nut, or because I own 57 handguns and want to own more someday. It doesn’t bother me because I’m in favor of fucked-up human beings killing children and defenseless, innocent people. It doesn’t bother me because I am in favor of individuals’ rights over the government’s responsibility to protect its citizenry. And it doesn’t bother me because I like reading about these episodes during the holiday season; children – younger than ten years old – being killed simply because they’re in school…the entire thing makes me simultaneously weep, sick to my stomach and gives me the urge to find the body of the person who perpetrated this repulsive act and set the corpse on fire.

None of these things will change the fact that nearly 30 people died today that shouldn’t have. And moreover, no argument for gun control or an extended, stronger second amendment persuades me that these types of incidents would stop if we were all prohibited from purchasing and owning guns.
I’m not in favor of the United States returning to frontier justice and every person carrying his/her own personal weapon. The notion that some women don’t feel safe unless they have a rape whistle and/or pepper spray bothers me. And short of us firebombing and destroying the entirety of Detroit and other decrepit cities, there are and always will be parts of this country that are far less safe than they should.

Unfortunately, something that Ted Nugent – admittedly, one of the least tolerable voices and most unabashedly irritating people who I’ve heard sound off on this topic – made a lot of sense. He said – in response to Bob Costas reacting over the murder-suicide involving the Kansas City Chiefs over the past several weeks – that the cure to obesity wasn’t to outlaw knives and forks. And by that he meant the tool isn’t the problem, it’s the person operating the tool.

While we’ve all – at one time or another, and likely more than once – heard, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” This statement is both true and false. True, guns are made to kill. However, I’ve fired guns on many occasions and I’ve never killed anyone. I know a dozen or more people who have similarly fired guns on multiple occasions and never killed anyone. So there is a balance – not all people who use and espouse the use of guns are killers. Some guns aren’t bad – to wit, the entire argument for retaining the Second Amendment is to ensure we can protect ourselves from enemies – both foreign and domestic, which latter category includes the government as well as third parties.
Seems that our biggest concern these days is the third parties – at least that seems true if you’re in Illinois, Oregon, or Connecticut.

The fact is I’m all for the wrong people being blocked from owning guns, but much like cars, there’s very little we as a society can do to prevent the wrong people from obtaining them. With drivers, we make sure each person takes a physical operator’s exam and a written exam prior to being granted the privilege of driving. It’s likely we should consider making people pass similar types of exams in order to procure a handgun, and repeat the process each year or be forced to surrender their weapons. Second Amendment purists might balk, but me, being a member of the NRA after completing competitions, can’t see these types of incidents perpetuate without some sort of change. I can’t foresee this nation surrendering its right to bear arms – nor do I believe we should – but at the same time, every time someone suggests – after a repulsive incident like the one we witnessed today – that we need more gun control, I don’t even bother asking him/her what would have happened if one of the people in that building in Illinois or in Oregon or in Connecticut – or in Columbine, Colorado – had a handgun. These incidents are not firefights; they’re mass murders. Because the victims are trapped without being able to defend themselves. Perhaps that’s part of why these incidents are so completely disturbing. Of course, today’s incident – involving children – would have been equally disgusting had there been a gas leak that took 30 peoples’ lives. But these incidents are – on some level – preventable. When we blame guns for what happened today and in other parts of the country, we’re only partially right. Who could have known this individual from Connecticut was going to perform these sick, deplorable acts? Maybe his family – maybe. So why was he walking around? How did he obtain these weapons? Who failed to see his behavior changing?

None of that particularly matters now – until the next of these incidents occurs. However, the next time it does, and the next time the invariable reaction is “We should really outlaw guns” – we should ask ourselves what happens when/if this happens. Will people who are sick and depraved enough to kill innocents – children, unarmed people, etc. – going to be deterred by gun control? Is it really that difficult to obtain a gun illegally in this country? Today’s incident occurred 90 miles from New York, a city in which I live and can obtain an illegal handgun for, maybe, $250. Maybe less. So let’s ban all guns and make it so the only people who really can obtain guns are people who want to do so illegally so they do illegal things with them: kidnap, rob, mug, murder.

I’m sorry that today, like so many incidents like it, occurred – and I am sad beyond belief knowing these children were taken from us by something so terrible and stupid and tragic and repulsive. And I hope – one day – that we finally realize that people who live in fear of guns and believe they can be controlled need to wake up and embrace weapons for protection and to minimize and stop these incidents. I hate the fact we’ve become that society where we need to arm ourselves, but short of decrying these incidents and shedding tears after they occur, I personally have seen and heard enough stories involving the misuse of weapons to know that fearing something is not the answer. The answer is to face it and find a way to beat it.

Put another way, if someone in that school today was armed, how many people might have been saved?

Let’s focus on that question – and its elusive answer – along with the inevitable call for gun control and the outlawing of weapons.

And let’s hope we find an alternative than the status quo; one thing on which we all agree – that’s not working.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

And The Cradle Will Rock...

As one peruses typical headlines these days, he or she will more than likely encounter at least one mention of a murder or a similarly serious crime committed by someone under the age of 18. In years past, this – more often than not, anyway – resulted in the debate over whether the suspect should be tried as a youth or as an adult. Typical factors often included the suspect’s age, his or her mental capacity, compelling factors (self-defense, etc.) and whether the crime was particularly egregious or whether the commission of said crime deserved some measure of compassion. To wit, a thief who steals a loaf of bread to feed his or her family should be treated differently than one who steals a car for pure entertainment, and a person who murders another human being in self-defense should be treated differently than one who murders another human being, again, for pure entertainment.

Recently, the Supreme Court agreed to hear two cases involving 14-year-olds sentenced to life in prison (14 years old: Too young for life in prison?). The first, Evan Miller, who is now 23, involves Miller’s participation in the murder – by bludgeoning with a baseball bat – of a 52-year-old male neighbor who lived in the same trailer park as Miller. Subsequent to the murder, he and his accomplice set fire to the trailer.

The second, Kuntrell Jackson, involved the hold up of a video store during which one of his accomplices shot the clerk. Prior to arriving at the store he and his accomplices discussed the hold-up and during the act itself he threatened the clerk, but he did not pull the trigger.

Given community standards and differing life experiences, it’s understandable to react differently to essentially the same crime in different communities. However, the disparity of the two examples above alone suggests that more should be done to address the issues surrounding underage crime and sentencing youths as adults.

However – and we can be sure there are thousands of cases each year which could be debated as being unfair examples of excessively punishing youth crimes – it is a bit disconcerting that with increasing frequency young people are participating in crimes that result in murder, sometimes with extremely excessive violence. Again, there’s a difference between a gun accidentally going off while two children are playing and a 14-year-old bludgeoning his drunken neighbor with a baseball bat.

To quote Kim Taylor-Thompson, a professor of clinical law at NYU Law, "no one is excusing the fact of what happened. What we are saying is: Did these two young men engage in thought processes that would make us say today they're the type of individuals who can never be rehabilitated, never change and be locked up to never see the light of day? We believe that they deserve a second look.”

The problem for me is less the age at which these crimes are being committed and more in the temper of these crimes. Each crime – more or less – is different, but when there’s excessive violence involved, and the motive is purely dysfunctional, attempting to rehabilitate perpetrators of these types of dysfunctional crimes seems, to me, wasteful.

We can all agree that a stupid mistake at 13 or 14 – can sometimes be met with a combination of understanding and maturity. Stealing a car, as opposed to committing rape, arson or murder, can perhaps be grounds for rehabilitation. However, while we’d all like to believe that a young mind can be taught to behave in a proper way, and to “unlearn” dysfunctional, abhorrent behavior, to me there seem some mistakes which, once crossed, cannot be atoned. While some might observe that youths who commit certain egregious, violent crimes can possibly be rehabilitated, it seems to me – with increasing frequency – that a young person who is already on the road to violent crime is even less likely to be rehabilitated than an older person who has committed such crime.

Put another way, a 14-year-old who is capable of murderous, violent behavior is, in my belief, more dangerous and defective than perhaps an older person who has “grown” into this type of behavior.

I might be wrong, but it seems to me that perhaps we should give a second look to revising the age whereby a young criminal can be considered an adult.

Put yet another way, if we’re unwilling as a society to ask ourselves what inspires a 14-year-old to commit murder, rape, arson and other extremely violent crimes, perhaps we should revise the punishment to fit the revised crime.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

It's All Facebook's Fault

Years ago -- or in that dapper, desolate era known as the 60's -- hipsters roamed the planet armed with worn leather jackets, Chuck Taylor high-tops and moleskin notebooks. They carried pencils or pens of reasonable size and sturdiness and recorded their thoughts and reactions to the trials and travels and travails which they faced and which faced them.

And with the birth of The Internet, they grew up and old.

In today's nano-friendly climes, one that sees children more likely to read from a tablet than a pop-up book, there is still something called Moleskin -- but it's no longer a company which produces pocket-friendly paper-based recording devices, it's a company filled with newly-minted antiques, an iconic throwback to an era no more.

I blame Facebook.

I'll explain.

Facebook -- which is not the root of all evil or The Devil's Work or really a bad thing at all, frankly -- is to blame for our increasingly centrifugal lives spinning headlong out of control. It started with answering machines and VCR's -- too busy to be home to a) answer the phone or b) watch TV? Let a machine handle it for you, and do it on your own time. Then came cell phones. Too busy to sit home waiting for that call? Bring your 12-pound bag-phone with you and answer the call on the go!

Twenty years later, it's all about the DVR, voicemail, text messages and running as fast as possible through life rather than actually sitting back and living life. Some people missed the memo -- it's about the journey, not the destination. Because, as most of us are acutely aware, the destination is the same for us all.

So to explain my continued and deplorable absence herein, I blame Facebook. Why should one stop life when Facebook chronicles each minute of our every day in its open-source, hacker-friendly pages? Why should I bother checking into a blog that no one has the time to read? Unless I wax prophetic about RIM's demise, Apple's impending egregious mediocrity or the newest Android phone, does anyone really care? I'm sure there's a hapless, helpless soul that counts him- or herself among my regular readers sitting in clothes that are overdue for laundry, reading this blog in lieu of a favorable, worthwhile hour of reality TV (although the truth is there really is no such thing).

The point being that we've eschewed humanity in our lives and we've forgotten how to step back -- ever so briefly and/or slightly -- and just enjoyed life rather than trying to outpace it. Whether we're in New York, Hong Kong, LA, San Francisco, Boston or Miami, life's increasingly rapid pace will always be just beyond our reach, but like a fat man on a treadmill, there's no medals for trying.

In either case, my somewhat regular mea culpa with respect to my absence here isn't my own, per se -- it's just that I haven't quite perfected the art of avoiding the impending Facebook timeline from my existence just yet. I am, of course, interested in those of others -- but for my own infinite playlist, gallery, photo album and stream of nonsense, I've held back.

I'm not sure why; it's certainly not a fear of self-expression. It may, of course be a lack of intelligence or wit or knowledge or, most likely, a combination of all of these things. Or it may be some sort of revelation that, contrary to an observation by Tom Petty, too much may not only be enough, it may very well be too much.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Perspective, An Aside

For RB

One of my friends is dying.

I’m not referring to the daily grind we each experience, the condition Pink Floyd once assuredly described as being “one day closer to death.”

I’m talking about someone – a peer, an equal, a person who might as well be me – slowly winding her way towards no longer living.

It’s not only sad – she’s really a sweet, funny, happy, unique person – but it’s, of course, also a reminder to us all that life is truly and genuinely fleeting. While we consciously understand this concept, when it affects someone who at ~ 35 is far too young to experience this indirectly, let alone directly, it’s a tragic if not cliched reminder that we take much too much for granted and savor each day far too little.

Far be it from me to wonder – aloud, anyway – as to why The Big Man allows this to happen. Good people shouldn’t suffer, and they shouldn’t die far too young. They should live their lives not knowing or worrying -- or being forced to care – about the finite aspect of life – they should spend their days bearing smiles, not burden. And they should be among us – alive – to radiate their positive, upbeat energy. They shouldn’t spend their youth, or whatever one can re-badge Middle Age, confined to a hospital bed, requiring assistance to walk, before the inevitable occurs and they’re no longer here to validate our memories of them.

But they do.

I’m not sure if Billy Joel’s “Only The Good Die Young” got it right, nor am I certain that Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey don’t sometimes regret their teen anthem “My Generation” bearing the lyric “I hope I die before I get old.” But I do know that as consciously as I can bear it, it still baffles and saddens me knowing the world is losing someone far too good and far too young.

To quote Donna Summer, that's not the way it should be.

Not at all.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

RIP Steve Jobs 1955-2011

It was 1983. I arrived home to find two large, brown boxes awaiting my arrival on our porch. Both were from an entity known as “Computer Factory,” located somewhere in midtown on Lexington Avenue. For me, this and other stores like it would in turn become akin to what most children deem to be toy stores.

I ripped open both boxes, despite warnings from my father, to find an Apple II+, an amber-tinted CRT monitor and a C. Itoh dot-matrix printer. While one of his law partners advised him that it would take hours to assemble everything and that I should not even open the boxes without my father there, I ignored both his and my father’s warnings and had the entire system up and running in about 45 minutes.

The next foray into Apple’s vision was in 1984, a new type of computer called a Macintosh. It featured a weird, wavy box covered in taupe, a 9’ inch black-and-white screen, a floppy disk drive and 128k of internal RAM. And a mouse!

The next Mac visitor to the Boogie household was the 512k version of the Macintosh, known as the “Fat Mac” – and it was largely identical to its skinnier sibling, except this impressive bump in internal memory.

Next up was a Macintosh SE, courtesy of the CIRC/US store through GW, which forced me to leave DC for Bethesda, Maryland, to pick up my latest bounty. After enjoying a few months with the dual-floppy model, I endeavored to have a Rodime 45MB hard drive installed. It was 1988.

Once I outgrew this model, next up was a Macintosh IIci – a nice yet antiseptic box covered in toothpaste white and with no built-in monitor. That lasted several years, equipped with varieties of software that were first making their impact in non-professional computing: photo editing, desktop publishing, and the earliest versions of actual email.

After this model began showing its age, I found myself researching its replacement. Several models had already reached the market as potential replacements, but what troubled me – both as a Mac user and a Mac evangelist – was that Apple had released a machine similar to mine (called the IIcx) that was a marginal step-up from mine, and then only several months later released a machine – if memory serves me right – called the IIce, which was essentially the same thing as the IIcx except in a different shell and with a price tag $400 lower. People who had purchased the IIcx were furious that their machine was both instantly replaced and obsolete, especially given the lower price. In fact, some people had purchased the IIcx only a week or so before the IIce was released and felt cheated and disenchanted by Apple’s behavior. They demanded some sort of restitution – either allow them to trade in their newly-purchased, soon-to-be doorstops, or offer some sort of refund as a show of good faith.

Apple, after all, was known for being the un-IBM. IBM was the faceless, corporate juggernaut that eschewed the “personal” in the term personal computer. Whereas Apple not only put a face on their computers (literally, with the Macs) they were not faceless people hidden behind huge steel girders. They were the non-corporation.

This move, however, changed many peoples’ opinion of Apple – including mine.

That year, I opted for a Toshiba Satellite notebook running Windows for Workgroups 3.31. Thereafter, I purchased a Dell Opti-Posi-Tronic Something-Or-Other running Windows 95, and have since not looked back at Apple in my rear view mirror, excepting those instances where Apple has taken similar, corporate stances in the face of these types of conflicts. Apple went from a two-man traveling show – Steve Jobs and Steve Wosniak – to a corporate entity much akin to IBM, except for the relaxed dress code and the much-preferred campus-style office complex.

However, Apple’s vision of providing an alternative to IBM’s cold, hard dominance wasn’t so much akin to following a yellow brick road to a small man behind a curtain but moreso akin to Who’s Next – “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

Steve Jobs was a singular genius – his products and the manner in which he took Apple’s reins upon his return to the company are legendary and, without question, impressive. However, while Apple’s designs are wonderful – the iPhone and the iPad alone are two of the most omnipresent items of the 21st Century, without a doubt – my problem with Apple has and will likely always be their need for control and exclusion.

Some time ago, I found a story online about how Apple has instituted a unique power connector for internal hard drives in its notebooks. In order to function, a hard drive needs to be connected to the system with both a conduit/cable for data and power. By controlling the way power is shared with the hard drive by the system, Apple – de facto – controlled who could make hard drives for Apple computers and who could install them. I assumed there was some sort of explanation for this: perhaps efficiency or reduction of heat or something similar. But no – this was simply a way for Apple to control who and how used and manipulated its products.

This type of controlling behavior is typical of a company like Apple – underdog mentality that knows its products are good but far outnumbered. It’s the hallmark move of a company that needs to be a bit underhanded – in plain sight.

The antenna-gate issue – which marred an otherwise typical cult-like devouring of the iPhone 4 – is another typical example of how Apple does its thing. Denial and control of a situation is the way a small upstart facing insurmountable odds manages to go from small and beatable to a multi-billion dollar cult-driven empire.

None of this denigrates or takes away from Steve Jobs or his legacy. The iPhone – regardless of the fact I’ll never own one – is a solid, respectable product that has shaped the current and future interaction between people and mobile communications. It’s also likely the sole reason why Blackberry (RIM) will be out of business within 36 months. Between that and the iPod, one can’t and shouldn’t criticize Steve Jobs.

Further, it should be noted that Jobs has changed the way we perceive computers – not simply as a result of the iPad, but how he has – coupled with digital cameras and their integration into cell phones – managed to change why we need or even want to use computers. His contribution can’t be minimized to one or two simple products or their impact on our culture. His contribution can, rightfully, be categorized as incredibly significant and as much so, if not moreso, than Bill Gates’ or the integration of Google into our on- and offline lexicon.

My only issues with him, which I would have happily addressed with him directly had I had the opportunity before his untimely passing yesterday, was why he was so quick to take Windows to task for copying the Apple OS when his company lifted the entirety of the idea of using a mouse from Xerox. The second, and more crucial, of these issues was why Apple took advantage of its legions of supporters so readily. To the first, it’s clear that fomenting a sense of “David versus Goliath” was key to Apple’s success. Claiming their good ideas were lifted was and continues to be paramount to Apple’s daily mantra. To wit, they have pushed back against every major company – IBM, Google, Samsung, Motorola, RIM, et al – that they deem to be their competition. Inasmuch as their behavior is more litigious than Tom Cruise attending a cross-dressing costume gala, one can only suspect their predilection to point fingers at their competition is a result of their interest in controlling and profiting from the market rather than advance technology for “the rest of us,” which makes far better ad copy than admitting their ulterior goal – which is to make as much damn money from the consumer as possible.

The second – whether it’s a hard drive power cable, a faulty antenna, injunctions and copyrights or simply rolling out new models to the detriment of its customers –no longer surprises me. I used to be one of the believers – that Apple was different, that their products were different, that their goal was different. I used to believe they were a company designed to advance the technology, that their products were better, and that their goal was to be better, not simply turn as much profit as possible. Those assumptions and beliefs were, in fact, wrong. Apple believers usually tell me that Macs are the best-built, highest-quality machines available on the market. When I advise them that Lenovo’s customer service ratings suggest otherwise, they balk. Facts trump belief.

When Mac users tell me their main reason for buying a Mac was the nearly universal absence of virus and malware designed to attack Macs, I mention that I’ve been using a PC without aftermarket virus/malware protection for six years and haven’t had virus or malware problems simply because I am careful with my online behavior. I also mention to them that I know a dozen Mac users who, in the past year, have had their google, yahoo, AOL and/or hotmail accounts compromised. I also remind them that the future of computing is not in user-installed software but interactive online applications, which are – largely speaking – ignorant of platform.

When I revise my response and clarify that I’d rather know how to use a computer safely in an otherwise unsafe Internet community, I rarely – if ever – receive a response that demonstrates any understanding – or interest – in knowing rather than putting one’s faith in the dearth of Mac-centric malware. Essentially, faith in Apple is better than knowledge.

I don’t bother discussing the differences in hardware performance and the disparity in the vast choices and options between the PC and Mac platforms because most Mac users seem content having less choices and fewer options in what’s available to them. To their credit, they have typically suggested that they would prefer quality over quantity. To that I agree – however, invariably, when asked how he or she would accomplish a task, the typical response is “I’d probably have someone with a PC do that for me.”

As his legacy, I don’t discount Steve Jobs’ contribution to personal computing or his significance going forward as to what we can accomplish with and without computers. I only hope that in the future, the one to which his legacy contributed greatly, is that we don’t eschew knowledge for ease nor do we misunderstand capability for efficiency. And finally, I hope the least of his accomplishments is the fact he took a two-man company and built an empire; rather, I hope the most lauded of his accomplishments is the fact he took his visions and, nearly single-handedly, changed the world.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The Aftermath

Now that 36 hours have passed since the US assassinated Osama bin Laden and the shock has worn off, there are a variety of factors which have been going through my head and my heart since we first heard the news. Interestingly, Kaia and I were together – we had been watching a film and Kaia’s friend called to discuss something with her but first told her to turn on the news.

So now that the shockwaves have passed and the reality has sunk in, what do we – as a nation – know – and what do we – as a government – know?

Well, the public has been informed that the mission was performed by the Navy Seals (it was disclosed that it was indeed the highly-respected members of Team Six, aka SpecWar DevGru, that carried out this particular mission). The specifics are a bit sketchy, but the brief version is the US tracked a courier that had been associated with several al Qaeda operatives to a large compound situated behind 18-foot-high walls on one acre in the military garrison town in Pakistan known as Abbottabad. Two of the more curious factors which piqued their curiosity was that the courier and his brother were living elsewhere in a million-dollar home yet had no discernible income. And further, the house they had tracked the courier to in Abbottabad was huge in comparison to its neighbors, yet had no internet or phone service of any kind. And finally, while every other house in the neighborhood routinely left its refuse out for collection, the compound’s trash was never left for collection; it was routinely burned.

When the US established a possible sighting of a large man who perhaps fit bin Laden’s description – sometime between September and December of 2010 – they put in place a possible mission which began with Seal Team Six, aka Red Cell.

The Seals, much like the British SAS (Special Air Service), are the anonymous rock and rollers of anti-terrorist, special operations groups. They operate in largely foul conditions, almost always get their hands dirty, and always succeed. Failure for these groups isn’t an option. Essentially, when there is a terrorist or hostage rescue situation that can be handled on the ground in lieu of an air strike or something similarly catastrophic, these are the groups that receive the first call. After receiving the call in connection with the mission to kill or capture bin Laden, they built a replica of the Abbottabad compound and began training for every contingency.

Team Six is the SEAL elite unit which carried out Sunday’s breach of the compound in Abbottabad. Details are scarce – at least accurate ones – but it appears it was two choppers that were sent into Pakistan. The choppers were specially-outfitted MH-60’s that were almost certainly noise-suppressed to avoid detection. The SEALs had entered Pakistan’s Ghazi Air Base from Pakistan, and they brought, among other goodies, “tactical signals, intelligence collectors, and navigators using highly classified hyperspectral imagers.” In plain English, that means they brought materials to signal success to their delivery men (eg their pilots) as well as personnel to insure any computer/data could be safely brought back to the US for review and research. The last part – “navigators with highly classified hyperspectral imagers” – refers to thermal detection equipment so they could locate all the people within the compound prior to going in. It helps to know what’s around the corner waiting to kill you before actually turning the corner.

One of the choppers experienced significant mechanical failure, so much so that the SEALs abandoned it after setting it down and (after the mission was complete) destroyed it to make sure no one would be able to loot and research the technology aboard the downed aircraft.

The raid took approximately 20 minutes, which included killing or capturing approximately 22 individuals located within the compound walls. Both bin Laden and his son were killed in the actual conflict – eg the firefight – as were several other terrorists and a woman who may or may not have been providing material assistance to bin Laden and his people. The public has been advised the woman was being used as a human shield and her death was a casualty of a fierce firefight, but this may not be accurate. It’s possible she was firing on the SEALs and, despite the political ramifications of her death, when people fire at SEALs – especially when they’re in combat mode – they respond accordingly.

At the conclusion of the firefight, the SEALs took custody of between 10-12 captives in addition to bin Laden’s body, which was flown back to their US handlers for examination and DNA confirmation. More importantly, every hard drive in every computer in the compound was removed and taken as well. Finally, because the compound’s trash was burned, the SEALs collected any papers they thought may be relevant and retrieved those along with anything else that might be used for identification and/or research.

All in all, after photographing all the bodies and the configuration of the compound, the members of SEAL Team Six returned to the chopper and were extricated from Abbottabad back to the Pakistani Air Base and were subsequently brought home.

I’ve received conflicting details about whether any members of Team Six were injured; according to public reports, none of the breach team was injured. Others have suggested several minor injuries, resulting from bin Laden’s people using Teflon-coated ammunition, did occur. Regardless, the battle scars these guys endured on Sunday are medals I am certain they will wear with pride – silently – for the rest of their lives.

While this mission was one of the most public and crucial of America’s SpecWar operations ever – at least in the modern era – I can’t help but be impressed not only with the efficiency the SEALs do their job but also the fact that these missions are run with such regular frequency and rewarded with so little public kudos and thanks. Whether these guys do what they do because of their love for America, for the knowledge that they must do it because no one else can or will, or simply because they are good – great – at what they do, it’s pretty clear that the few times we hear – publicly or otherwise – about their successes we should take the time to appreciate their efforts.

So for the members of Team Six and all the SEAL members who participated in the raid this past Sunday, as well as to all those who have expended blood and sweat in protecting America’s interests and security every- and anywhere, know your efforts are appreciated, even if the appreciation is given indirectly; keep on doing what you do.