Author Archives: Hognose

About Hognose

Former Special Forces 11B2S, later 18B, weapons man. (Also served in intelligence and operations jobs in SF).

Hey, how come no one comments on the ATF threads?

Cat got your tongue?

Or are you worried about consequences?

We don’t think the ATF has it in for outspoken folks any more than it has it in for all of us. But there are two useful principles to remember when dealing with the ATF.

  1. To the limited extent a problem is of ATF’s creation, it probably was created entirely by managers, over the strenuous objections of line agents or inspectors; and,
  2. A lot of the beefs people have with “the ATF” result not from anything the bureau did, but with the internally contradictory laws that they are commanded to enforce.

Almost all the dumbest stuff in the US Code relative to firearms emanated not ex cathedra from the Throne of Elliot Ness, but from the kindergarten we call a legislature.

Gunowners Physical Security Plan, Part 1

In conversations with our local police chief, we learned that he’s had an awful lot of trouble with burglary victims having lost property that they can’t describe accurately. That makes a certain amount of sense: after all, do you know the serial number of your computer? Your flat screen TV? Of course not.

But the stolen property he was most concerned with was firearms. While some burglars are still stupid enough to try to pawn firearms, something both the pawnshops and the police are on to, most of them have a higher level of brain-stem activity than that. But burglars by definition have plenty of criminal associates, and this ensures that any stolen firearms rapidly begin circulating in the criminal milieu. And they love stealing guns (here’s an ATF interactive on guns reported stolen in toto and by state).

Since they wouldn’t be criminals if they weren’t losers, a percentage of them get bagged doing routine dumb stuff you probably don’t do, like beating their baby-mammas, or blowing through red lights with veins full of psychoactive chemicals, and the cops recover lots of guns. But it doesn’t work like TV. Unless they know that Walther P.38 serial e5176 is your stolen gun, it’s never connected to your residential burglary. Contrary to TV shows, they also don’t ballistically test every gun that comes in, only guns that come in suspected of being used in assaults or murders, where they have a crime bullet to match. So once Joe Burglar’s woman-beatin’ or DUI case is over and the gun isn’t needed for evidence, it gets disposed of by law and SOP. (Some places auction the guns, some destroy them, basically depending on the general degree of anti-gun attitude of the pols in the area). So once your gun is gone, your chances of recovery are fairly low but nonzero, unless you don’t have a number to give to the cops.

John Sobotta and his stolen and recovered Luger.

John Sobotta and his stolen and recovered Luger.

The guy who’s photo is shown here is an example of a guy who had an inventory: Michigan gunowner John Sobotta. As John Agar of the Grand Rapids Press reported, Sobotta “always wondered — and worried” about his stolen guns (although he didn’t contact the cops until they came to him, using information from a state handgun registry). One came back quickly, and another took longer:

His German Luger turned up a year later, after a parolee shot himself in the leg.

The other, a .38 special Cobra Colt, was found by Grand Rapids Police Officer Robert Kozminski, who heard shots and arrested a suspect running with a gun in his coat.

That was Dec. 14, 2006. It was one of Kozminski’s last felony arrests.

(Kozminski was killed in 2007, fortunately, not by one of Sobotta’s firearms). Disregarding Agar’s firearms illiteracy, his article notes that, at least of his writing in 2010, the average time between theft and recovery in Michigan was fourteen years. The article was part of a series, rather typically blaming legal guns and gun owners for Michigan crime. But Michigan doesn’t punish gun burglars much — one gunstore burglar got six months.

Number, photographs, and any unique identifying features also help. Which reminds us, if you’ve been burgled, but still have photos of your guns, try blowing them up from the RAW files or negatives — you may be able to recover serial numbers. Not an optimum way to proceed, but it beats zero.

Once, we used to have all our serial numbers memorized. But these days, we have a smaller brain, a bigger gun room, or both; so we keep a computer inventory in an Excel spreadsheet. One problem with that is glaringly obvious: any burglar who grabs the guns will certainly boost the computer, too. You can just see that next conversation with the Chief. “So where’s the inventory you told me you had?” “Uh, Crim’s got it.” Major crime-fighting fail. Your inventory needs to be backed up offsite.

Many people have no inventory of their firearms, because they don’t expect to be robbed of them. (But it happens even in upscale communities — often by someone who worked as a laborer for a contractor working on that house or another in the neighborhood). If you have an inventory, the cops can rapidly — within minutes — have those stolen guns listed in the National Crime Information Computer system, which not only increases your chances of getting your gun back (unless it’s recovered by a lawless jurisdiction like Boston, which destroys rather than returns recovered guns), but also increases the chances of catching the burglars and their enablers who buy their stolen property.

ATF publishes a handy inventory sheet for the owner. Here it is, ATF Publication 3312.8, Personal Firearms Record. It’s too small for most of us, with room for only ten guns, but shows you what information to include. Then all you have to do is put a copy in a safe-deposit box, or leave a copy with a family member or trusted friend. (This is the “poor man’s safe-deposit box,” it can’t get opened by your ex’s divorce lawyer’s subpoena, doesn’t need a key, and you and your chosen inventory holder are most unlikely to be burgled same day. Unless you live in Chicago or Detroit, in which case, why haven’t you moved?)

If you want to skip ahead and think up some more physical security measures, ATF publishes a security guide for FFLs and SOTs, ATF Publication 3317.2, Safety and Security Information for Federal Firearms Licensees. The Physical Security section beginning on Page 8 has some interesting parallels to the Army way of doing things, but the bottom line is, it’s good advice, although the ATF version is more advisory, whilst the Army regulation is more directive.


Once upon a time, we knew all the serial numbers of our firearms. Now we have a smaller brain, a bigger gun room, or both; so we keep a computer inventory in an Excel spreadsheet. One problem with that is glaringly obvious: any burglar who grabs the guns will certainly boost the computer, too. You can just see that next conversation with the Chief. “So where’s the inventory you told me you had?” “Uh, Crim’s got it.” Major crime-fighting fail. Your inventory needs to be backed up offsite.


Exercise for the reader: imagine a burglary of an FFL or SOT. Now imagine getting the hardware and the bound book. D’oh! An offsite inventory is a really good idea. If you’re worried about pervasive surveillance and lax computer security (and you probably should be), then your offsite backup should be a hard copy, on paper and everything.

He pointed out that our dead-bolted gun room we’re so proud of is really nothing but a locked door. Worse, it’s a locked interior door, with no eyes-on, and quite vulnerable to a forcible attack.

We realized we didn’t have a physical security plan. Back in Army days, you had to have a physical security plan for each of your facilities. If the facility hosts firearms, ammunition, explosives, classified information, or anything else deemed sensitive, the Army required a truly elaborate physical security plan.

A good physical security plan provides many layers of security. The first layer should probably be an exterior alarm on the structure, or perhaps even perimeter video. (This assumes a perimeter fence is not practical). The next should be locks and other obstacles. Any soldier will tell you, though, that an obstacle is only an obstacle if it’s under observation and covered by fire… conditions that do not obtain if you ever leave your building unoccupied.

You cannot keep every burglar out. What you can do is deter some burglars, delay and bother others to the point where they give up. In that case, they’ll probably go burgle someone else’s home or workplace, but that’s not your concern. If you do get the rare burglar with no quit in him, or no preference for the easy mark, and he does persist, you can document his depredations so that he’s quickly caught.

As we develop a physical security plan, some options fall by the wayside. Alas, as grand as Hog Manor is, it’s not a good candidate for a moat (and the weather here is uncomfortable for alligators and piranhas, sad to say). Likewise, the neighbors, currently cordial, might take a dim view of guard towers, searchlights, and razor wire — not to mention the pay and benefits for three shifts of guards. (How come no Bond villain ever has to deal with his henchmen’s workmen’s-comp issues? But we digress).

The bottom line, then, is that we’re restricted to measures that do not radically change the exterior of the structure. Our goal is not to make an impregnable Maginot Line, for every Maginot Line has its vulnerable flank. Our goal is to apply some of the techniques of military defense (and, to be sure, physical security) to harden Hog Manor.

And you’re along for the ride.

ATF’s eForms — paws up for now

If you use the ATF’s eForms program, you probably know this already, and you’d been expecting it for some time: the eForms system that is used by many businesses is hors de combat.

While some may see this as part of the normal slow-walking that ATF does with forms when their preferred politicians are in power and they can, it’s more likely something much more routine: a Government IT project run without clarity, competence, and finally, consequences (for failure), breaking down as those projects always do.

But in any event, if you’re a business, SOT, Trust “responsible person,” or other e-filer, for the time being, you e-cain’t. Or as the Bureau puts it:

Due to maintenance, the eForms system is unavailable. We apologize for any inconvenience and thank you in advance for your cooperation and patience.

In the interim, all imports forms (Forms 6 Part I and 6A), NFA forms (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9 and 10), and AFMER reports (Form 5300.11) must be submitted via paper, including any eForms in draft status.

The ATF has struggled with recent changes to the eForms system, and SOTs and Trustees have been complaining about delays, glacial page loads, lost forms, and a panoply of other problems.

From time to time the Bureau has shut down the system. For example, in October of last year it was shut down with many other government services in an attempt to wring more money out of Congress. As David Goldman wrote at the time, in an inadvertent slip, “there is surly a cost.”

Trouble in MARSOC land?

Hmmm. This article at OAFNation is drawing a lot of attention this week. It has a number of interesting points, and here are a couple of them:

Unfortunately the healthy, expected, productive growing pains experienced by MARSOC are accompanied by a multitude of other significant, more toxic institutional failures, ones that compromise the very livelihood of the unit and its future success. Problems that, if left unchecked, will present a stifling obstacle to the evolution of the organization, and ultimately threaten to deteriorate the progress already made. The majority of these issues can be generally attributed to major systemic failures in staffing and leadership at the regimental level and above. To thoroughly understand the context of this problem and what caused it, we must observe the organizational culture of the Marine Corps as whole, and comprehend how it applies to the existing structure of MARSOC. I’ll expand:

That’s part of the extended introduction; here’s a little bit of the meat:

In the case of MARSOC, this has unfortunately led to a systemic plague of the organization, its highest echelons having been infected by senior enlisted leadership with zero operational experience, credibility, or comprehension of SOF and its mission, its capabilities, and its role within DoD. The current regimental sergeant major of MARSOC, for example, is a 27-year motor transport Marine, whose previous assignment was – you guessed it – battalion sergeant major of 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, MCRD San Diego. I’ll say that again; the regimental sergeant major of MARSOC holds the MOS of Motor Transport Mechanic. This is the guy sitting on the selection board at the end of A&S deciding who’s fit to become an operator. This is the guy attending joint staff briefings, senior SOF leadership symposiums, liaising with key personnel within SOCCENT, JSOC, etc, sitting across the table from Army E-9s with decades of ODA time, NSW master chiefs, etc. Making policy. Influencing critical decisions. Representing MARSOC. It sounds ridiculous as I sit here writing it, yet it’s a very sad and sobering truth. The operator base is 95 percent enlisted men, and this is our senior enlisted representative. Just to construct a frame of reference for the uninformed, and in the interest of beating a horse well beyond death, a command master chief with NSW – anywhere within the command – is a SEAL. A command sergeant major of an Army special forces group – hell, the command sergeant major of USASOC – is a Green Beret. But the glorious USMC, in its infinite wisdom, perpetuates this ridiculous mantra of “A Marine’s a Marine’s a Marine! We’re all the same, you’re not special, hell, we’re all special because we’re Marines!”, effectively sabotaging the very fundamentals of SOF and its institutional imperatives. The detrimental effects of this dynamic will become increasingly evident as MARSOC’s mission continues to evolve in conjunction with the transition away from GWOT; for example, consider the limitations it presents for the component’s ability to fill key roles and command positions in joint SOF task units or centralized commands without homegrown higher echelon leadership.


This doesn’t even dive into the manner in which field grade officers are arbitrarily thrown into critical positions of authority at the regimental level and above at MARSOC. To even begin to explain the incongruity with which this process occurs would take another post by itself, one that I think I’d rather suck-start a .45 than write. For every halfway competent career officer at MSOR there are a dozen who can’t find their way to the chowhall. You can’t swing a dead cat inside component headquarters without hitting six lieutenant colonels, and most of them act like they’re in some kind of purgatory while awaiting orders to their battalion commander billet (which to be honest, many of them are). The whirlwind of helter-skelter whipping through the halls of the death star is enough to make your head spin.

The Motor Transport Mechanic dude is a particularly disliked figure among the men of MARSOC, but he’s characteristic of a problem all the services have with promoting men of marginal intelligence, experience and general utility into important positions based on their ability to amass ticket punches on schedule.

There is much more meat at the article, so if you’re interested in this sort of thing, please Read The Whole Thing™. (In fact, it would entertain and inform you to read the whole site).

We would encourage the author and other young MARSOC Marines to resist throwing in the sponge, yet. From where they sit it looks like SF is going swimmingly and has never been beset with dud sergeants major or careerist, backstabbing officers. Au contraire! At times, over the 62 year history of the SF Regiment, the actual operational dudes have been bitterly at odds with their imported leadership. It took the establishment of SF as an actual Branch coequal with the old-line Infantry and Armor and what have you to enable the retention of quality officers, and to eliminate some of the problem of dilettante ticket-punchers.

In the 1980s, in one of the periodic “housecleanings” of SF ordered by conventional officers, a number of officers who either never did qualify, or had done so in their youth as dilettante ticket punchers. LeRoy Suddath is in one of these categories, we believe the former; he was brought in to “get the snake-eaters under control.” As he took over he sent minions out, yes-men colonels with a conventional infantry mindset to turn the Groups into conventional units and their ODAs into long-range Rangers; suck-up-and-stomp-down sergeants major who were at their intellectual maximum trying to measure uniform appurtenances, referee (mandatory!) wives’-club meetings, or apportion police-call areas.

Some of Suddath’s men were such disasters it was comical, except for the poor wretches in their Groups. One fellow decided that his religion would be your religion and all the officers and men in his unit were subject to inquisition inspection at no notice to ensure their issued New Testament was in their leg pocket. This was the conventional Army’s way of straightening out special operations.

At this same time certain other special operations units began to fill leadership slots more extensively from Ranger than SF backgrounds (some SF units are partly to blame for this, as they deterred their members from seeking to join these other elements). SF officers who served primarily in SF were sent to punitive assignments far from troop command. SF NCOs “who had been in SF too long” were sent to recruiting and drill sergeant duty. A number of them elected to try civilian life or other government agencies. Some stayed. Some of the ones who stayed, couldn’t tell you why they did. But they kept, if not the eternal flame of true SF brightly burning, at least the pilot light lit.

Around this time, we crossed over to the Reserve side. Over the years, we would find that any time the leadership got stupid in active-duty SF units, the Reserve (at least while they lasted) and Guard units benefited. Nobody was in the Reserve or Guard to advance his career, which eliminates one of the biggest drags on units: self-serving and -aggrandizing leaders.

But somehow the active guys muddled along. During Desert Storm, they did the long-range Ranger thing so well, that Norman Schwarzkopf (Suddath’s roommate in the Class of 56 at Hudson High, but miles ahead in class rank), a guy who started the war hating SF, came out of Desert Storm realizing that SF and other SOF hanging out in the enemy’s rear areas were his primary generators of reliable intelligence. From a detractor to a fan, in one short war. (Suddath never did get the message, but that was probably for the same reason Schwarzkopf’s high class standing never rubbed off on him, either). And by late 2001, SF, with joint service and interagency teammates, was in position to achieve US war aims in less than three months. (It’s unfortunate that the war aims then changed).

So what’s the point of all this digression, and how does it tie to the MARSOC situation? It doesn’t, directly. Right now, the USMC’s corporate immune system sees MARSOC as a foreign body — much as the Army long viewed SF — and it desires to eliminate the irritant. The way to stay in the game, the way to be known as a valuable team player and not an irritant, is to give a commander what it is he needs — even if he doesn’t know that’s what he needs yet.

The way to survive in the interim is to give commanders what they think they need. SF did that with the various Cold War strategic reconnaissance programs. Mr NATO Commander, you want us to tell you when the second strategic echelon goes through? Yep, we got it for action. And if the balloon had gone up, we’d have had teams sitting with eyes on mountain passes in Slovakia and intermodal freight yards in Poland, and Ivan wouldn’t have moved a battalion without it being toted up on that CO’s board. And he’d quickly realize what he got from friendly eyes on a target was orders of magnitude more reliable than the inferences the three-letter agencies draw from their technical means of collection.

And all the time, we were training UW and practicing FID through JCETs, and even MTTs to American units (which produced lots of friction with conventional leaders, oddly enough). Because you do what you have to do to keep the concept alive, even if it’s in suspended animation for a while. Kind of like travelers to Mars, you guys today are the keepers of the flame of MARSOC civilization while it’s passing through some light-years of bad officers and worse pinnacle NCOs.

To return to a metaphor from three paragraphs ago, Marine culture and the actions of individual Marines together will determine whether the virus that is MARSOC insinuates itself into the DNA of the Corps, or is treated as foreign matter and whacked during some round of budget cuts. Our guess is that Marine senior leadership will try to keep something called MARSOC, not because they give two farts about it, or even have a glimmer of a clue what it is and what it can do for the nation and the Corps. Nope, they’re going to want to keep it for the same reason they put the laughable SOC for Special Operations Capable in parentheses behind the nomenclature of Marine Expeditionary Battalions lo these 30 or whatever years ago — so the Marines’ lobbyists can try to get the Corps some of the money Congress thinks its appropriating for SOF.

Okay, suppose you’re a leader of a Marine SOC element and you don’t want to see your unit and capability back-burnered or worse? One thing you can do is conduct an annual or even semi-annual exercise to bond existing unit members and the new guy who just came in, whether he came in from training somewhere, has been parachuted in by the personnel wallahs from over in Motor Transport, or even is a ring-knocking major late of “supply, a much underappreciated field of endeavor.” The old ASA SODs used to do this in an exercise they unsubtly named Newby Prove, in part because they didn’t select their own personnel, always. They couldn’t always get rid of a guy right away after he choked during Newby Prove, but it didn’t matter: he had been seen to choke by all hands, and even with nothing said, he developed a burning interest in career paths that moved him quickly in a new direction. If he didn’t choke, chances were good that both he and the old-timers found something to appreciate in one another, and bonded usefully. 

If the truck-jockey sergeant major and the warehouse-manager field grade don’t go right into offices, but have to demonstrate that they, too, can experience hardship, jump and fast rope, kick doors and elicit information by interviewing role-players, not to mention hump a real-world rucksack a dozen plus miles, they might just be on the team when they’re done.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week – Torpedo of Rijeka

Robert Whitehead was a pacifist and teetotaler, who invented a weapon that's in its second century of use and development.

Robert Whitehead was a pacifist and teetotaler, who invented the naval torpedo and sold it all around the world: a weapon now well into its second century of use and development.

Here at Weaponsman, we’ve discussed naval torpedoes before. We’ve done it in the light of early American torpedoes that have been recovered from the bottom of the sea, or otherwise rediscovered, and displayed in museums or otherwise studied. But the very first torpedo, at least the first successful one, came from the forgotten Navy of the Habsburg Empire, by way of an English inventor and entrepreneur.

Fortunately, there is a place where this early history is not only not forgotten, but preserved and memorialized, and it is present on the web at Torpedo of Rijeka, our Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week this week. It’s a website founded by enthusiasts of the first naval torpedo, and the first naval torpedo factory — in their Adriatic hometown.

When Farragut said, “Damn the torpedoes,” in the Civil War, the “torpedoes” that he referred to were what we think of today as naval mines. They were tethered to the bottom or shore, and meant to inhibit naval traffic. While mine warfare is still a very important part of naval offense and defense today, the word torpedo has come to mean an underwater projectile or missile,  self-propelled with propellers or jets, and aimed at a particular target. Torpedoes can be fired along a pre-determined course or guided in some way. This guidance today can be on-board or remote, in the latter case usually wire-guided much like an antitank missile.

The inventor of the torpedo as we know it was Robert Whitehead, a Lancashire engineer who had long worked on the Continent. He was working in Trieste, then an Austro-Hungarian seaport, when he was essentially head-hunted by another firm, and moved down the coast to Fonderia Metalli de Fiume, in a port city which has had many names and flown many flags over the centuries since Roman historians noted that a tribe of rude Celts lived on the hills and a “more civilized” tribe of mariners lived in the seaport. The Romans called it Tarsatica.  By 1856, when Whitehead and his family arrived, the city was known as Fiume in Italian (which many of the inhabitants spoke, regardless of their loyalty to the Dual Monarchy), Fiume in Hungarian (technically, it was part of the Hungary half of the Empire), Sankt Veit am Pflaum in German (the lingua franca of central Europe in those days) and Rijeka to the local Croats, who had to learn one of the other languages — or better yet, all of them — to advance in society and commerce. As an empire, Austria-Hungary was a very different concept from the nations of today; one’s ethnicity was not implicated in his political allegiance to the extent it is in the post-Fourteen Points world.

Fiume was also the location of the Austro-Hungarian Naval Academy, which like any major power’s academy not only trained future naval officers but sponsored research. This included pioneering research in photography, communications, physics, and, more to our point, remote-controlled weapons. Whitehead’s company, now yclept Stabilimento Tecnico Fiumano (Technical Establishment of Fiume), at first made high-tech machinery of the era, such as steam engines for naval ships. They were tied in tightly to the Naval Academy and the local academic community; for example, technicians at what would become the Whitehead torpedo plant provided the first experimental proof of Mach’s concept of the influence of the speed of sound on aerodynamics.

A different kind of "Coast Guard," this primitive weapon inspired the naval torpedo we know today.

A different kind of “Coast Guard,” this primitive weapon inspired the naval torpedo we know today.

By happy coincidence an officer (Commander — Fregattenkapitän – Giovanni Luppis) was struggling with a remote-controlled surface boat IED he’d invented, which he called the Coast Guard. His surface torpedo — for that is what it was — had a spring-and-clockwork mechanism and steering bridles for control from the shore, and a contact fuze for detonating if someone was lucky enough to guide it onto an enemy ship. Here was a problematic gadget, but the germ of a very good idea, and Whitehead and a talented team including his son John and his right-hand man, Anibale Plöch. Unlike many Victorian Age inventors, Whitehead seldom sought patents, preferring to maintain his technical advantages as trade secrets.

And technical advantages he had.

Whitehead's (and the world's) first torpedo, 1866.

Whitehead’s (and the world’s) first torpedo, 1866.


To make his torpedo work, Whitehead and his team had to solve several problems: propulsion, stability&control, and effect. The last of these was the easiest: a cylindrical bronze torpedo could carry sufficient explosive to sink any modern dreadnought, and, moreover, deliver it below the water line where the ship was most vulnerable. The Empire was well-stocked with talented artillerists and engineers, and neither fuzes nor explosives required research, simply development. That part was basic engineering, not science.

The true developments were propulsive and control based. Whitehead used steam for the first torpedo, and then changed to a compressed-air-powered piston engine, for more power and quicker preparation to fire. The compressed-air engines were made in a variety of designs and layouts.

Of course, the engine is only half of a naval powerplant — the other half is the propeller.  These three recovered torpedo tails tell the story of improved propellers (they also show the growing awareness of fluid dynamics. The first torpedo was sharply spiked fore and aft — by the end of the 19th century, a blunter shape with a round nose was proven to generate less hydrodynamic drag).

1868 torpedo shows pointed end and single-screw with a duct ring.

1868 torpedo shows pointed end and single-screw with a duct ring.

1884 torpedo is a little thicker and has introduced dual counterrotating props to neutralize torque.

1884 torpedo is a little thicker and has introduced dual counterrotating props to neutralize torque. The ring was found to inhibit propeller efficiency.

1898 torpedo has a more organic shape and well-uptimized counterrotating screws.

1898 torpedo has a more organic shape and well-optimized counterrotating screws.

Devices pioneered here for control were a mechanical depth control and a variety of steering gyroscopes. John Whitehead tried to develop a torpedo gyroscope but his model was a dead end. Instead, they purchased a design from former Whitehead engineer Lodovico Obry. Much of this history is recounted on the Torpedo of Rijeka website.

The Obry gyroscope

The Obry gyroscope

In the years leading up to the Great War, Whitehead’s company, Torpedofabrik Whitehead AG, was controlled by a British syndicate of the arms and engineering giants Vickers and Armstrong-Whitworth, who’d acquired it on his death in 1905 and continued torpedo development.

After the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian empire at war’s end, the factory was acquired by an influential Italian family, and its name was changed to an Italian one, but cutting-edge torpedo development for all nations resumed. The testing station on the docks had a new level built with a catapult to simulate aerial torpedo launches.

The torpedo launch test station offered a ship-launch level, and air-launch level with catapult, and an observation level.

The torpedo launch test station offered a ship-launch level, and air-launch level with catapult, and an observation level.

The plant resumed torpedo production again after being bombed by the Allies in World War II, but ceased that production in the 1960s. The physical plant and its distinctive torpedo test tower (alas, not the original from 1866 but the upgrade from the 20th Century) still exist. The enthusiasts of the Torpedo of Rijeka website hope to establish a permanent museum to their city’s most enduring export. Rijeka today is a sun-blessed city on the Adriatic coast of Croatia, and a reasonable European vacation destination.

Whitehead had a most remarkable life. His daughter Alice married the skipper of the Austrian boat that tested and validated his prototype torpedoes; his granddaughter Agnes inherited his vast fortune, and she in turn married an Austro-Hungarian minor nobleman and naval officer that she met at a sub commissioning. The officer would later command that sub and another on his way to becoming the Empire’s top-scoring submarine ace, in which career he naturally used Whitehead torpedoes to sink English and Italian vessels (including an Italian submarine, Nereida, in possibly the first sub-on-sub torpedo battle in history).

You might have heard of the guy, who later emigrated to the United States with their kids after Agnes passed away. His name was Georg, Baron von Trapp.

OT: Tax Day Junk

Today, the Eagle feeds. (In real life, the swan got away. Great photo though).

Today, the Eagle feeds. (In real life, the swan got away. Great photo though).

April 15th may not mean much to our international readers, but it’s the day we USian taxpaying throgs owe our third (or half, if you’ve selected your state unwisely or earned too much, or more, if you’ve done both) of our productivity to the most unproductive organization on earth, the various levels of US Government. You send it in along with your “tax return,” a document whose very name implies that it’s the .gov’s money all along, they were just letting you earn it for them. Right generous of them.

Because we experienced the unusual combination of a weak earning year and a good investment year, 2013 was a little peculiar: the amount we just sent in with a Federal extension was more than we actually made working. We’ve finally reached the point of the old Simplified Tax Form Joke: the simplified tax form has just two lines:

  1. How much did you make last year?, and,
  2. Send it in.

Here’s Remy Munasifi with a musical rendition of just how good this feels:

Hat tip Reason via Powerline. Thanks guys… we guess.

We’ve long noted that despite deep divisions in US politics, most everybody thinks the federal government wastes leviathan quantities of money. The left and right may not agree with what exact programs are the wasteful ones, but they agree there are a lot of wasteful ones. And the cocktail-party conversation evidence is that most honest people on either side of the aisle are appalled at how much waste and corruption there is, even in programs that they support philosophically.

If you’ve noted us getting ill-tempered around here lately, well, not everybody has Remy’s knack of making a musical joke of it.

Where the Tax Money Goes

Lois Lerner, a retired “civil servant” for the IRS and the wife of another former “civil servant” for the same agency, have amassed, through the usually corrupt inside-the-beltway self-seeking processes, vast sums of money, and live in a two and a half million dollar house. The average federal employee has a total compensation of well over $100k a year, more than twice what the actual workers who pay the taxes get, and has many other benefits unheard of in the Dreaded Private Sector. In 2009, almost 400k Federal employees were in the 100k salary-alone club (not counting rich benefits like overtime, location pay, and an unsustainably rich pension scheme). By 2012, the number was closer to 500k employees, more than one in five Federal payroll patriots. On average, Federal employees earn twice as much as private sector employees in comparable jobs.

  1. How much did you make last year?
  2. Send it in.

Something Better that Happened April 15th

On this day 50 years ago, Ford Motor Company designers and engineers brought forth in this land a conceptually-novel and category-defining product, the 1965 Mustang. Within a few years it would be copied by almost everybody in Detroit. Most of the copies (and a chunk of the nameplates that spawned them) have fallen by the wayside; a few (Camaro, Challenger) have been reborn; but the Mustang has remained in continuous production, and more or less true to its original vision, if you squint past the Carter ‘Malaise’ era Mustang II. Starting in the 1980s the Mustang came back with remarkable strength, sometimes despite Ford accountants’ efforts to strangle it. Everybody else will have a picture of the body style today, so in our contrary spirit, here’s the office:


It is clearly a product of its period, and people who try to use them as daily drivers quickly learn what fifty years of engineering progress has wrought, despite fifty years of government meddling. But it is a time capsule, and to drive one at seven tenths is still exhilarating. (At nine tenths, terrifying; at ten, traumatic).

This is not the greatest paradox of the original Mustang, but a paradox it is: in fact it was no feat of stylistic perfection or engineering genius. It was a somewhat busy reskin of the dreadful Falcon econobox, an attractive enough car, but one launched into a market experiencing a golden age of automotive styling. Its engineering was pedestrian, and sports-car snobs laughed at it (until Carroll Shelby’s racing team started beating them with Mustangs). But it was a new idea and one that took the world by storm. (In Germany, where the all-American trademark “Mustang” was owned by a lawnmower company that would not negotiate with Ford, they sold as the “T5,” but they still sold it, remarkable given the differences in roads, fuel costs and laws). It was swept along into legend by the youth and vigor of the Baby Boomers, the very same generation now grown grasping and bitter in their dotage. 

No, the greatest paradox is that the 1964 could have been the 1962 Mustang. It’s probably just as well it wasn’t, or it would be hopelessly mired in Camelot journoworship, but the reason for the delay was the presence of the bloodless numbers guy, Robert S. MacNamara, as head of Ford. MacNamara’s career is an interesting example of a guy going to the “right school” — in his case, Harvard Business — and then failing ever upward. His high points:

  • Before Ford, he was head of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey, the statistical whiz kids charged with making it look like it was the 8th Air Force, and not the US, British and Russian ground armies, that actually beat Germany. They tortured the data mightily but it never really gives up that conclusion; German factories mostly ceased production when there was a Sherman, Churchill, or T-34 sitting atop their ruins.
  • At Ford, where he was hired by Ernie Breech to instill some numeric discipline (and make up for the late Henry Ford’s practice of firing all the accountants every time he found them), MacNamara redlighted the Mustang. He did, however, greenlight the Edsel, because the numbers looked good. He was proudest, though, of the Falcon, designed by the numbers to be a minimalist car. As a numbers guy, he never understood how any car buyer would be motivated to want more than basic transportation; as a retired Ford top executive, he was entitled to a new lease every year of any Ford product. The others so blessed chose luxurious Lincolns or exotic GTs; MacNamara always chose the most basic transportation, with the minimum options. He was consistent, we’ll give him that, and at least he wasn’t innumerate — quite the contrary.
  • After Ford, of course, he became Kennedy’s Secretary of Defense. Before we get to Vietnam, let’s look at where the numbers led Mac: to try to get the Navy and Air Force to share the same fighter planes. He didn’t think he needed to understand the different missons of at-sea Combat Air Patrol and deep interdiction; he was a Harvard man after all. The result was two separate disasters: the large one of the TFX, which the Navy finally escaped after the prototype killed their test pilots, and the Air Force finally whipped into a combat plane in 15 or 20 years of staggering expenditures (where it was saved by Moore’s Law and new electronically-enabled armaments like smart bombs). The small one was inflicting the gunless F4 on the Air Force, who ultimately learned to fight the airplane successfully.
  • Then there was Vietnam, in which Mac gave us MacNamara’s 100,000 (which was more like 200,000, low-fuctioning recruits and draftees, or, to be blunt, retards). Then proceeded to project onto the Nort Vietnamese his own obsession with numbers, and send them “messages” that were irrelevant to DRV war aims; then came up with the whole Igloo White, etc. MacNamara Line to prevent and interdict enemy border infiltration. Then in his memoirs he admits he knew the US was losing, but just kept shoveling troops in, because, what the hey, they were just numbers anyway. In retirement, LBJ, who kept all of Kennedy’s Cabinet except RFK who insisted on quitting, despite the fact that none of the Harvard men respected him at all, mused that he, “should have fired the sonofabitch.” You don’t say.
  • MacNamara still wasn’t done failing upward. After his fiasco-rich stint as Secretary of Defense, MacNamara headed the World Bank, and continued to torture numbers, in this instance to allow the Bank to continue to make loans to collapsing economies. Default followed default and the Bank nearly collapsed.

Despite all that, and despite being a numbers guy, he still didn’t wind up as rich as Lois Lerner. But then, she didn’t kill tens of thousands of American troops with bad decisions. So that’s a data point in her favor.

When the Mustang was introduced, MacNamara, then Secretary of Defense, sniffed that it wouldn’t outsell his baby — the Falcon. When it did, Mustang proponent Lee Iacocca sent a rather rude message to Mac. Can you blame him?

Tomorrow, back to guns… so many ideas, so little time, and we need to earn the money we paid the jeezly government.

Kill Chain Analysis Follow Up

Yesterday we introduced you to Kill Chain Analysis, and we failed to link the Senate Commerce Committee Report on the Target data breach. (That’s been corrected in that doc, and also here, now).

Today, here’s a couple more foundational documents.

Hutchins, et al. Intelligence-Driven Computer Network Defense Informed by Analysis of Adversary Campaigns and Intrusion Kill Chains. This is the original 2009 Lockheed-Martin White Paper that introduced the concept of the Cyber kill chain. It’s full of warmhearted warmaking wonder, like this buzzword-compliant table of potential countermeasures by phase:

Screenshot 2014-04-14 23.47.27


It’s worth reading especially for the case study of a sophisticated, imaginative and tenacious cyber attack on Lockheed Martin in 2009.

Uncredited. A New Cyber Defense Playbook. MITRE Corporation. This is a fairly superficial document that describes using the Kill Chain analysis to develop and deploy countermeasures against a cyber threat.

Uncredited. Stalking the Kill Chain. RSA Data Security. This white paper goes into more depth about how to respond to the repetitive attacks that characterize an advanced persistent threat.  This was one of the points that struck us as insightful:

Historically, security technologies tend to be focused in a single place, or at most, two places on the kill chain, but lack the entire context behind an event that a complete analysis system imparts. When using the phrase “stalking the kill chain,” we are focusing on the ability to use a structured approach to watching the network with the idea of identifying kill chain events in progress, across the entire kill chain.

This paper may be most useful for the cyber-threat signatures it associates with each link of the kill chain. They’re all quite interesting, and taken together, depict the outlines of an area of warfare that literally did not exist when we started our military career.

Ave Atque Vale, A-10 Warthog (Video Rich)

Let us set up this video. It’s a one minute clip from an IMAX film, Fighter Pilot, and the whole movie actually tells more of the story of the F-15s than the A-10s they’re escorting, but the clip focuses on one A-10 gun run. This is a trip to the range for live fire, and the sequence of events is this:

  1. You see F-15s (these might be Strike Eagles) breaking left and right (a two-ship each way).
  2. A two-ship element of A-10s fires flares, fires a GAU-8 burst, and breaks left.
  3. Either another element, or the same one shown again? Both A-10 elements are shown first from behind and overhead, then from beside, obviously filmed from another aircraft.
  4. Then you see the ground point of view. You see F-15s approaching on the deck, and a tank (an old M60A1 deployed as a range target) on the left. If you look closely (and have the video  on full screen) you can see the Warthogs below and behind the fighters.
  5. Some A-10 pilots clearly have more luck, or skill, than others. You can wound personnel in the open with 30mm near-misses, but nothing but hits will kill a tank. You’ll see plenty of hits, though, and the target’s-eye view was worth the risk of an unattended (obviously) camera.

You can dismiss the dopey explanations that come on screen; the poster added them because, well, most YouTube commenters are living proof that half of humanity is below average.

You can’t have just one gun run, although that’s the most beautifully photographed one you’re going to get. Courtesy of the Air Force, here’s two more videos of A-10s in range fire action just last year at the Nevada Test and Training Range.

In the second video, the camera’s further from the action (as you can tell by the elapsed time between the gunsmoke at the Warthog’s nose and the sound of hog-snort). Note that most of the rounds in both videos are near-misses, but there are some spectacular hits. The targets here are old 8″ M107 SP Howitzers.

This airplane is to be scrapped — not because they have anything to replace it, they’re replacing it with empty hangars and unemployed pilots and mechanics. They’re scrapping it because the money is needed for corporate welfare for big contributors, and handouts for the idle.

But we’re not cynical.

To return to the technical stuff that brings us together, can you watch that and not wonder how in hell they reload and maintain that thing? After all, they built the entire plane around it (The A-10 and its unsuccessful A-9 competitor were the first planes built around a gun since the P-39 of the late 1930s, which was built around the M1 37mm cannon made by, of all firms, Oldsmobile).

Unlike World War II, where armorers came out on trucks and handed cans of belted .50 ammo over to bomber gunners or loaded them in the wings or nose of fighters, the GAU-8′s 30mm rounds take some machinery to load up. (Actually, the gun can be loaded by hand, but it’s an ordeal to do it). Normally, the rounds are contained in plastic cylindrical loaders, which the loading machine shucks them out of like husking corn, before stuffing them in the A-10. (In real combat, other ordies would be hanging bombs and/or missiles on the plane’s hard points, but in training they usually separate training for bombing and gunnery).

And if you haven’t had enough, here’s more behind the scenes A-10 reloading (about ten minutes of loading and interviews with ordnance airmen):

And finally, here’s a couple of GAU-8 ground test fires, probably at General Electric’s facilities in Vermont.


Sure, we could talk about the specs of the GAU-8, like its incredible muzzle velocity, uncanny reliability, or four-figure rate of fire, but you know, you can look all that stuff up. We thought we’d just start your day off right with a few videos of eager young aviators delivering the tank-busting Power of Holy Smite from on high, and eager young ground-crew airmen stuffing that power back in the magazine so the whole thing can be done again.

These may be the last months of the service life of these incredible airplanes, and the guns they’re built around. They’re soon to go the way of the Republic Aircraft Thunderbolt (which they’re actually named after, in an official name that’s scarcely used), Republic Thunderchief, and a hundred other combat types. This will be the last plane that carries the lineage of Alexander P. DeSeversky, a White Russian who became an American aviation pioneer, and Sherman Fairchild, who started building airplanes to support an aerial photography business. (Yes, the same Fairchild company that later invested in Armalite in AR-10 prototype days).

Quick Consumer Tip: LOSD book, 25% off

Law of Self Defense Andrew BrancaWe have this book and we paid full freight for it, and it was worth every damn penny. You can get it for 25% off, if you act now.

Did we mention that we liked and recommend the book?

The book, The Law of Self Defense, is by the nation’s leading self-defense legal expert, Andrew Branca, a Massachusetts (of all places!) lawyer. And now you can get it for 25% off, and you can give credit to the CSGV, which is some anti-gun group. (They don’t have much of a real-world presence, they’re just more Bloomberg astroturf, which is why we forget how the acronym breaks out, but it’s something along the lines of Criminals Shooting Guns Viciously, or something like that).

You can get the book here, and put the following code in to save 25%: @CSGV.

Heh. As Andrew said in his Tweet announcing the price break, “No joke.”

So why did he give credit to his readers, in the name of the notorious anti-gun group? It’s like this: they’ve been trying to get him disinvited from the various universities where he’s been speaking on his summer lecture tour this year. They’ve been trying to shut him up. (Lotsa luck with that, kiddies).

Of course, they haven’t had any success; but that’s to be expected. Crazy Uncle Mikey Bloomberg’s money buys more persistence than it does competence.

Plus, he’s selling more books and getting more people at the seminars he’s been holding thanks to the attack. (Hmm. If a cyber attack can come from something we define as a Advanced Persistent Threat, is this inept and backfiring approach to silencing Branca more of a Retarded Persistent Threat? Could be. As he put it in his blog,  “Anyway, I certainly hope they keep it up–I couldn’t possibly afford to pay for this kind of advertising…. Indeed, I’m going to get both those tweets blown up and hung on my office wall, like animal trophies. :-)”

So what is best on a book tour? We don’t expect to hear from Andrew about that until he, and his motorcycle, are back in New England, but we would guess it sounds something like: “To crush your enemies. And hear the lamentations of their women.”

And, don’t forget you’ll be hearing the lamentations of their girly-men, too. So amble on over to the LOSD store, and get yourself (and maybe your pistol-packin’ pals; they need it too) a copy of this excellent book.

Hat tip, the estimable John Richardson at No Lawyers.

Who you gonna believe, me or your lyin’ eyes?

MonopolyJailThe answer to that shouldn’t be too hard. And it shouldn’t hinge on what jurisdiction we’re in. If we’re living in the physical world, and “I” am anybody at all, you’re asking for trouble to believe my words over the evidence of direct observation. But if we’re in Indiana, and I’m a cop, my false testimony literally has more weight than video evidence that contradicts it.

This is the consequence of the Indiana Supreme Court going Full Retard in the case of Robinson v. Indiana (or is it Indiana v. Robinson?). TechDirt has the, well, dirt (although if there’s any tech here, we don’t see it):

Seeing how often official reports by law enforcement are contradicted by video recordings, you’d think judges would have become a bit more skeptical about the supposed “superiority” of officers’ recall powers. But that’s apparently not the case, at least not in Indiana, where the state’s Supreme Court has ruled that officer memory trumps video recordings.

In the case being discussed, the officer following Robinson’s car observed it veering over the fog line twice, which gave him the reasonable suspicion he needed to pull her over. Once pulled over, Robinson blew a .09 BAC (.01 over the legal limit) and volunteered to the officer that she was also in possession of a small amount of marijuana. During her trial, she attempted to have the evidence suppressed on the basis that the officer did not have the reasonable suspicion needed to pull her over.

The Supreme Court reviewed the dashboard cam recording, concluding that while it may have not showed exactly what the officer claimed (or indeed, any solid evidence that Robinson’s driving was impaired), it was clearly inferior to the officer’s observational skills and experience.

Deputy Claeys, as he drove down County Road 4 on that October night, was observing Robinson’s vehicle through the lens of his experience and expertise. And when Deputy Claeys testified at the suppression hearing, the trial judge heard his testimony—along with the other witness testimony and evidence, including the video—through the lens of his experience and expertise. Ultimately, that experience and expertise led the trial judge to weigh Deputy Claeys’s testimony more heavily than the video evidence, and we decline Robinson’s invitation to substitute our own judgment for that of the trial court and rebalance the scales in her favor.
This conclusion was reached despite Claeys’ “superior” observational skills observing things that didn’t actually happen.

Deputy Claeys testified “both passenger side tires were over the fog line” and “completely off the roadway” “twice.”

As the single dissenting opinion notes, the previous court found Claeys’ recall of the events suspect.

via Indiana Supreme Court Declares An Officer’s Testimony Is More Reliable Than Video Evidence | Techdirt.

The TechDirt story links to a motoring-law blog story and presents the opinion (pdf here at the blog, or in Scribd at TechDirt). TechDirt is not playing “telephone” here as often seems to be the case in outraged articles: the Indiana courts have decided that “perjury doth prosper,” as long as it’s in a blue (well, these days, black, usually and in some cases appropriately) uniform.

The War on Drunks is a fine thing, but when we enable an officer’s hunch to override physical evidence, we’ve departed from the rule of law and stumbled down an alley than ends in the whole society getting rolled by a gang — a gang that were once police.

It happens. The founders of Mexico’s monstrous Los Zetas were once law enforcers, who found the pool more fun to swim in the deep end, on the other side of the of float rope. The two biggest gangs in Jamaica were both started by politicians and recruited from the police, which they have thoroughly infiltrated. The FBI in Boston found itself working for the local Irish associates of La Cosa Nostra. (And only two of those crooked FBI agents ever saw consequences, L. Paul Rico and Zip Connolly, who participated in mob murders). 

But hey, we tried the “government of laws” thing for a couple hundred years, and we still Didn’t Get To Utopia. Sad clown. So hey, let’s revert to the tried-and-true “government of largely hereditary social classes” that’s been the global norm at least since Hammurabi’s Code.

What could possibly go wrong?