Tuesday, July 28, 2009

We hit the road(s)

First time all three were allowed on to the country roads. They had an absolute ball! Usually they just ride on the property.

Profile of a school shooter

So, now that we have delved into the school shooting at Columbine, as vividly reported by Dave Cullen in his book Columbine, what is the profile of a school shooter? There is not a profile, other than the fact that most shooters so far have been males! The two biggest myths are that the shooters are loners and that they "snapped." Most (93%) planned the attack well in advance. Most also had confided their intentions or made advance confessions. 98% had experienced a loss (don't we all?), but they perceived that their loss was extremely serious (and our losses don't matter). Eric Harris was arrested and handcuffed; that accelerated his anger. How dare anyone hold him accountable for his criminal behavior? Dylan Klebold viewed his whole life as a failure.

One key is the specificity of the threats. Do they have a motive? Have they done work to carry it out? Do they have a preoccupation with death, destruction, and violence? Have they written or produced a graphic mutilation story? Is there evidence of malice, brutality? Is there repetition leading to obsession (working guns and violence into every situation)? Warning signs Cullen lists include manipulation, intolerance, believing they are superior to the rest of us, narcissism, alienation, rigidity, lethargy, dehumanization of others, externalizing blame.

Eric Harris was released early from his juvenile diversion program, because he had learned how to con each and every adult he came into contact with. He learned to mimic remorse, and give great apologies, even though he was plotting the murders at the same time. He tried unsuccessfully to recruit additional manpower.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Dave Cullen writes in his book Columbine about the PTSD aftershocks that affected the Columbine community long after the murders. Have you ever experienced PTSD? I hope not. For you, or to help you understand what a loved one may be experiencing, here are a couple of paragraphs on the subject from Cullen's excellent book.

"By definition, PTSD is a triad of change for the worse, lasting at least a month, occurring any time after a genuine trauma" wrote PTSD pioneer Dr. Frank Ochberg. "The triad of disabling responses is 1)recurring intrusive recollections; 2)emotional numbing and a constriction of life activity; and 3)a physiological shift in the fear threshold, affecting sleep, concentration, and sense of security."

Response to PTSD varies dramatically. Some people feel too much, others too little. The over-feelers often suffer flashbacks. Nothing can drive away the terror. They awake each morning knowing it may be April 20 all over again. They can go hours, weeks, or months without an episode and then a trigger - often a sight, sound, or smell - will take them right back. It's not like a bad memory of the event; it feels like the event. Others protect themselves by shutting down altogether. Pleasant feelings and joy get eliminated with the bad. They often describe feeling numb."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

First day on a bike

No need for training wheels for this cowgirl!

What we know about psychopaths

Dave Cullen's book Columbine convincingly makes the point that Eric Harris was a psychopath.
"Psychopaths are distinguished by two characteristics. The first is a ruthless disregard for others: they will defraud, maim, or kill for the most trivial gain. The second is an astonishing gift for disguising the first. It's the deception that makes them so dangerous. You never see him coming. Psychopaths take great personal pride from their deceptions, and extract tremendous joy from them.

The fundamental nature of a psychopath is a failure to feel. They have a readiness of expression, rather than a strength of feeling. The psychopath is prone to vexation, spite, quick and labile flashes of quasi-affection, peevish resentment, shallow moods of self-pity, puerile attitudes of vanity, absurd and showy poses of indignation. Indignation runs strong in the psychopath. It springs from a staggering ego and sense of superiority. They are nearly always thrill seekers. They crave new sources of excitement because it is so difficult to sustain. They rarely stick with a career; they get bored. They perform spectacularly in short bursts - then walk away.

In the Columbine killings there was a combustible combination: an angry, erratic depressive, and a sadistic psychopath. The psychopath is in control, of course, but the hotheaded sidekick can sustain his excitement leading up to the big kill. "It takes heat and cold to make a tornado," Dr. Fuselier of the F.B.I. is fond of saying.

Psychopaths react to pain or tragedy by assessing how they can use the situation to manipulate others. So what is the treatment for psychopathy? Nothing works! Therapy only gives the psychopath better ways of manipulating, deceiving, and using people. Some progress is being made in managing the condition, appealing to the fact that they think with their head (no emotional component), helping them to see that it is in their own self interest to adhere to rules and be rewarded with special privileges."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My two favorite trees

My two favorite trees, for which I am grateful to a previous owner of this property and to our Creator.

Two modern day Huck Finns

Pay Attention to Details!

Dave Cullen, in his excellent book Columbine, notices that Eric Harris had a game plan that worked with his parents and with juvenile officials (pun intended). Eric would cop to one thing and deny another. For example, he copped to alcohol use, but then said he had no further interest in alcohol and had not tried pot (both lies). He copped to making pipe bombs after being caught red-handed, but then claimed to have no further interest.

Harris and Klebold had broken into a van and stolen many items, and were facing either incarceration or juvenile diversion. The judge in the case is a man I have appeared before many times as a child welfare caseworker, and I like him. He was impressed in this case because both dads appeared in court with their sons. The judge was accustomed to juveniles appearing by themselves or with only their moms. The judge thought both dads had things under control. He missed one important detail: the evaluator who submitted a report to the court recommending diversion, did put in her report that she was uneasy about one thing: neither boy was taking responsibility! In fact, Eric Harris was seething that these "zombies" (his word for the rest of us inferior humans) dared to require him to submit to this interview process that included him filling out a questionnaire. By the way, in filling out the questionnaire, Harris checked the box "homocidal thoughts." Judges and evaluators need to pay attention to details!

How do I know that Eric Harris was seething? Because he wrote murderous statements on his website! On the day before the court hearing Dylan Klebold gave his friend Brooks Brown a piece of paper with one thing written on it: Eric's website. He urged Brooks to check it out, because he knew that Brooks told his mother, Judy Brown, everything. Sure enough, Brooks did exactly that, and sure enough, Judy Brown once again called the police that very night. The information did not get from the sheriff's deputies to the juvenile authorities prior to the court hearing the next day!

Dylan obviously hoped that Eric would be incarcerated. Dylan was dominated by Eric. He was painfully shy, although very bright. Eric was also very bright. Both did well in school, except for breaking into other kids' lockers, vandalizing homes, and setting off pipe bombs! Teachers liked them both, though. Eric was a voracious reader of the classics. Dylan was a thinker. He identified with literary figures who were lonely and hopeless.

Friday, July 17, 2009


In his book Columbine Dave Cullen credits an F.B.I. psychologist named Dwayne Fuselier with doing the diligent work to try to understand and diagnose the killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Klebold was diagnosed as depressive. The following are some quotes from Cullen's book, which I pieced together for this post.

"Depressives are inherently angry, though they rarely appear that way. They are angry at themselves. "Anger turned inward equals depression," Fuselier explained. Depression leads to murder when the anger is severe enough and then turns outward. Some depressives withdraw - from friends, family, schoolmates. Most of them get help or get over it. A few spiral downward towards suicide. but for a tiny percentage, their own death is not enough. The rarest of these angry depressives take the reasoning one step further: everyone was mean to them, everyone had a role in their misfortune. They want to lash out randomly and show us all, hurt us back and make sure we feel it. But murder or even suicide takes willpower as well as anger. Dylan fantasized about suicide for years without making an attempt. He was not a man of action. He was conscripted by a boy who was."

The Columbine Killers' Journals

In Dave Cullen's fascinating book Columbine, it is revealed that both Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris left behind journals. Dylan's reflected a young man grappling with life. From the first pages Eric's showed a killer who thought himself superior to all other humans. Dylan wasn't fond of other humans either, but his journals reflected his problem with loneliness. He remained religious right up to the end, but he cursed God for making him a modern Job. He realized that he had an unhealthy obsession with the video game Doom, and tried to delete it from his computer. He realized that he was addicted to vodka, and tried to quit. He realized that he had a problem ridiculing other kids; it was just too easy. Above all, he was lonely; he felt cut off from humanity. He saw that other humans loved their little boxes that made them feel safe and warm and comfy and boring. Unlike Eric Harris, Dylan was not planning to kill anyone, except, God willing, himself. Dylan had another problem: intense anger would flare up, "then fizzle in self disgust."

Both Eric and Dylan felt each was wholly unique. Eric saw his uniqueness as superiority to other humans. Dylan uniqueness was manifested as loneliness. His moods came and went quickly.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Asking leading questions, getting the wrong information

In Dave Cullen's book Columbine the author gives us a first-hand look at the way the press operates. They asked leading questions of students, assuming incorrectly that they knew the killers. Were they loners? Yeah? Were they outcasts? Yeah. The killers were not wearing trenchcoats, but that is what got reported. They were not gay, but that's what got reported. They were wearing baseball caps backwards. That did not get reported.

Asking leading questions is common practice by reporters, but also by other investigators. It is abominable when professionals do it when interviewing children.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

A Nonhostage Crisis Situation

I am reading Dave Cullen's book Columbine. It is absolutely riveting. As is my custom here, I will write about some of the things I learn.

When the murders were unfolding, the media was told by the Jefferson County Sheriff officials that it was a hostage situation. Of course, it was not. To the feds (F.B.I.) the distinction between hostage and nonhostage situations is critical. Here is Cullen's explanation. "With hostages, negotiations remain highly visible, make the gunmen work for everything, and firmly establish that the police are in control. In nonhostage situations, they keep a low profile, "giving a little without getting in return" (for example, offering cigarettes to build rapport), and avoid even a slight implication that anyone but the gunmen are in control. The goal with hostages is to gradually lower expectations; in nonhostage crises it's to lower emotions."

From the F.B.I. field manual and Cullen's book: "Hostages are a means to fulfill demands. The primary goal is not to harm the hostages. In fact, hostage-takers realize that only through keeping the hostages alive can they hope to achieve their goals. They act rationally. Nonhostage gunmen do not. The humans mean nothing to them. These individuals act in an emotional, senseless, and often-self-destructive way. They typically issue no demands. What they want is what they already have, the victim. The potential for homocide followed by suicide ln many of these cases is very high."

Eric Harris was the leader, Dylan Klebold was the follower. Dylan and his father, Tom, were "very close," or so Tom believed. Tom was against guns, and he was sure that there would be no guns found by the police, because he "knew" that Dylan also was against guns (Eric and Dylan had been planning these murders for over a year). The police did not find guns in the Klebold house; they found pipe bombs. Tom had been one of the persons who called 9-11. He did so after receiving a call at his home office from one of Dylan's friends, who had told him the killers had been wearing trenchcoats. Tom went into Dylan's room and looked in the closet: no trenchcoat. He immediately called police to tell them his son might be involved. The police immediately cordoned off the Klebold and Harris residences to look for evidence.

Look Up!

"Take me out to the ballgame!"

Our first major league ball game together was a joy to me, and, I hope also to my sons.

Monday, July 06, 2009

"Whose experience was worse?

Terry Anderson writes in Den of Lions that as the days, months, and years in captivity as a hostage of the Islamic Jihad passed, he still got angry from time to time, even though he had prayed so often for God to help him get his anger and frustration under control. "Each new guard has to be taught: I will not eat bread thrown on the floor, like a dog. I will not accept manhandling for no purpose. I will be treated and spoken to with a decent minimum of respect. I am a hostage, not a criminal, not an enemy. And, first of all, I am a man, not an animal."

Madeleine twice went to see psychiatrists. Wouldn't you know it: both recommended she have affairs! She could not do it, not until she knew her relationship with Terry was over, completely. She never went back to see a psychiatrist until Terry was released. More on that later.

Terry wrote often in the book about religious thoughts. He had asked for a Bible during his first months in captivity, and had been able to keep it most of the time, unless the guards were punishing him and others for some perceived rule-breaking. Terry found the writings of the Apostle Paul to be something he could identify with: Paul's love of God and his struggles with his weaknesses and pride. Paul's writings helped Terry "learn to accept, to stop struggling, and just wait for whatever God chooses to do with me."

Terry also wonders what he will do when the blindfold is taken off, and he is free again. He's not sure he wants to stay in journalism. He describes journalists as "watchers" and, less favorably, as "a swarm of banded, garish wasps." He wants to live, not just watch.

Though Terry had few choices, Madeleine had many, "and they were all difficult," writes Terry. "Whose experience was worse?"

Friday, July 03, 2009

Sunset, Moonrise

Tonight's Double Rainbow

"To know that you and the one you love are on the same level of feeling for each other, without the look of the eyes and the touch of the flesh."

After a period of being by himself in captivity, Terry Anderson writes in Den of Lions that he got a roommate, a Frenchman, who was soon released to freedom. Madeleine went to Paris to meet him. He told her the same thing that others told her when they were released: of Terry's love for her, that he has never ceased thinking of her. "The joy that these words can give a woman is extraordinary. To know that you and the one you love are on the same level of feeling for each other, without the look of the eyes and the touch of the flesh. My love for him grew deeper every day!"

Madeleine had maintained her refusal to talk with the media for over three years, because she would not give the kidnappers "the satisfaction of seeing me plead." But, after talking to the Frenchman, she decided to tape a message to send to President Reagan. "With Sulome on my lap, I wanted the president to see the family that Terry had left behind. The daughter who was growing up without her father. The loneliness that surrounded us. I wanted the president to know that the arms-for-hostages deal with Iran had prolonged Terry's captivity, and that he should do something about it now, before anything happened to Terry."

On July 3, 1988 the US Navy cruiser Vincennes shot down an Iranian commercial jet, killing 290 Iranian civilians. There was no reaction from the Lebanese kidnappers, which led Madeleine to believe things weren't cozy between the Iranians and their Lebanese allies. Nevertheless, "fear of mistakes by friends was as great as fear of the captives." They were "completely dependent on other people's actions and reactions." She later realized she was thinking illogically when she made the tape for President Reagan, "because America was dealing with people who were unspeakably evil, and no deal would change that fact."

However, Madel;eine now saw a new pain, the sadness in her daughter's eyes as she discovered her friends and daddys who were in their lives. That made Madeleine "determined to build a shield to protect my daughter from her father's kidnappers, not allowing them to hurt her by keeping him captive."

"I'm scared, not of them, but of myself."

Terry Anderson writes in his book Den of Lions that in March 1987 a state department bureaucrat named Michael Mahoney told Terry's sister, Peg Say, that the hostages were being "devalued." Can you imagine being told that about your loved one? The kidnappers escalated; they began making death threats. A message was sent from Washington to the kidnappers that if a hostage were killed, America would definitely strike. A U.S. Navy task force hovered off Beirut. "The threats died off."

Senator Patrick Moynihan of New York vowed (and made sure it did) that Anderson's name would appear in the Congressional Record every day until he was free. "In Beirut, Lebanese television carried a videotape of Anderson's two-year-old daughter, Sulome, blowing out the candles on her birthday cake. "Our hearts are broken. Where is Daddy," she asked, waving a picture of her father. The Lebanese announcer came back on the screen wiping tears from his eyes. "Madeleine wrote, "It is not easy to be helpless when you know the one you love is suffering."

Terry had thought he was doing well, but one day his emotions just roared to the surface, and he began banging his head against the wall. He had just about stopped asking God for freedom. Now he was asking for strength, patience and acceptance. But this episode of frustration scared him, and he realized that he "might not be able to make it." "I'm scared, not of them, but of myself." The young guards were not often vicious, but always "stupid, lazy, and indifferent."

You know how much I love the sky, if you are one who has put up with my blog photos so frequently. In his seven years in captivity Terry was not allowed to look at the sky after one five minute opportunity in 1985. I cannot imagine.

When you wait until Independence Day to plant annuals, you might as well go with a patriotic theme!

These impatiens plants will do well under the shade of the stairs to the deck.

Chickens and gardens

This rapist has been separated from the hens. The only reason he is still alive is his amazing rendition of cock-a-doodle-do!
These chickens will be on their way to feed the troops in a few weeks.
Formerly the site of the chicken coop, this ground will be nicely fertilized for some veggies!

Can you believe Mr. Workaholic actually took his kids fishing?

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Last day at this work location

"If this guy with that camera isn't too bright, I can just freeze here next to this ground that has the same colors as I, then maybe he'll walk away and leave me alone."
Since today was the last day of work at this location, I had to take one more walk down to the pond, and stay for the sunset.

The sunset was warm and peaceful, leaving many good memories and friendships.