Author Archives: Hognose

About Hognose

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

VA: Another Set of Secret Waitlists; Vet Info Leaked to Ruin Critic

VA-veterans-affairsITEM: Veterans have charged that in Colorado, too, the notorious practice of secret waitlists was used by Veterans Health Administration managers to present a false and misleading picture of the services provided to vets there.  This is identical to the corrupt practice exposed in Phoenix, Arizona, and like the Phoenix case, it was exposed by a whistleblower.

The St.Louis Post-Dispatch:

[Senators] Johnson and Gardner asked for the inquiry after a whistleblower told them the lists were allegedly used at the Denver VA Medical Center and VA health clinics in Colorado Springs and the Denver suburb of Golden.

The inquiry by the VA’s inspector general also will look into the whistleblower’s allegations that records at the Colorado Springs clinic were falsified after a veteran took his own life while awaiting treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Unofficial or secret lists have been used at VA facilities across the country to hide lengthy delays in care for veterans. Forty veterans died while waiting for appointments at a Phoenix VA hospital.

The reason for the secret waitlists seems to have been to manipulate service metrics and fraudulently claim performance bonuses. Since a job at the Veterans Administration, unlike health care for veterans, is an entitlement prized in Washington, no one has been held accountable.

Well, except for the whistleblowers. There’s always a handy cross to which they can be nailed.

A similar story ran in the Denver Post.

ITEM: They Leaked to Harm Him, Now they’re Sorry-not-Sorry. The Post also had another story recently, about the Denver VA’s leak of patient information. The VA, after blowing a vet’s information out to hostile media, admitted it in a snide we’re-sorry-you’re-angry letter from someone with the passive-aggressive name Sallie Houser-Hanfelder.

Houser-Hanfelder, director of VA’s Eastern Colorado Health System, said in a two-page letter to Michael Beckley that while his protected health information “was impermissibly disclosed to the news media, resulting in a privacy breach,” the misconduct was just a gaffe in paperwork rather than malicious.

The underlying misconduct was, well, misconduct:

VA public affairs officer Daniel Warvi told The Post in June 2014 that Beckley, 70, suffered from what Warvi described as severe mental illness. That came as part of the agency’s response to accusations it had mistreated Beckley when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer years earlier.

Beckley said his work as an expert witness in ski-accident lawsuits has nearly dried up.

“As soon as Warvi mentioned mental issues, I was done and that was the end of my career,” Beckley said. “They were trying to defend malpractice by the VA by trying to make me look like a nut, and it worked.”

It’s funny how all this “not malicious” keeps happening to VA whistleblowers and critics, and nothing ever harms a hair on the head (or a buck of the bonus) of the payroll patriots running this thing.

Warvi has not been held responsible. Hoser-Manyletters has not been held responsible. Why would they be? It is the VA: no one is ever held responsible. For anything.

Is it time to disband this thing yet?

When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws will have H2S

maksimilia-and-latifa-lincolnPeople have been killing themselves with the creations of Dr Porsche’s firm ever since V-E Day put the old Nazi out of the business of machinery for killing other people.

But this is one for the books; an entirely novel way to expire in the driver’s seat of a Porsche.

Medical examiners announced Tuesday they suspect hydrogen sulfide poisoning caused the June 2 deaths of Latifa Lincoln, 46, and Maksmilla Lincoln, 3, WESH-TV reported.

Coroners uncovered high levels of the flammable gas that smells like rotten eggs in the urine of the victims. Investigators believe a problem with the battery in Lincoln’s Porsche Cayenne caused an exposure to the deadly gas, which normally affects industrial workers rather than drivers poisoned by their car batteries.

It’s not just a rare mishap. It’s a first-time-ever, they think.

“It’s unprecedented. I haven’t been able to find another case,” assistant Orange-Osceola Medical Examiner told WESH.

Latifa Lincoln, 45, and her 3-year-old daughter, Maksmilla Lincoln, were found dead in Lincolns SUV as they drove toward Miami on Floridas Turnpike in June.

)A Florida Highway Patrol trooper and two Osceola County Sheriff’s deputies found Lincoln and her daughter motionless in the SUV. They were sitting in their seats with the car’s engine and radio still running, WFTV reported in June.

The car had bumped into a guardrail at mile marker 224 as the Lincolns traveled to Miami. Sources told the TV station at the time investigators suspected carbon monoxide as their cause of death after finding vomit in the car and rash-like splotches on the bodies.

Hazmat teams examined the car, but all initial air tests turned out negative, according to WFTV’s sources. Investigators did find a receipt from a mechanic on the passenger seat and paper mats on the floor of the 2006 Cayenne, though, the sources said.And the three original responding officers reported “a foul caustic chemical odor” in the car, according to an incident report obtained by the Orlando Sentinel.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes hydrogen sulfide forms in energy refineries, mills, coke ovens, and food processing plants, alongside human and animal waste and other natural causes.

“Just a few breaths of air containing high levels of hydrogen sulfide can cause death,” according to the CDC’s guide.Investigators have been waiting on toxicology results for months, and they plan to send the car to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration for more tests.

Something does not add up here. While this toxic gas does knock off an average of 6 people a year in the USA, they’re generally industrial workers dealing with hazardous and reactive chemicals. So this is either an accident chain of heretofore unimagined events, or it’s some extremely canny and creative homicide.

Hydrogen sulfide killed 60 industrial workers between 2001 and 2010, according to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Workers have died from exposures in underground sewer pipes, manure pits and industrial lift stations, among other examples.

While the story is old, early October, the investigation is even older — five months old, now. And it continues. It does appear that human action contributed, but was it an error, or something else?

Investigators will need results from more tests to confirm the SUV’s battery caused the Lincolns to inhale the deadly gas, Orange-Osceola Medical Examiner’s Office spokeswoman Carrie Proudfit told the Sentinel.Student commits suicide by inhaling gas near UT campus“The battery was not the original battery for the vehicle, nor the correct battery and is believed to have malfunctioned,” Proudfit said. “Both vehicle and battery will undergo additional examination by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.”

via Woman, girl died after inhaling hydrogen sulfide, coroners say – NY Daily News.

We suppose we have to keep an open mind — like the investigators.

The Lawrence of Alaska: Muktuk Marston

major-marstonWhat a lot of people don’t know about the National Guard is that, while today it is run entirely on a top-down basis, many units have their own histories and legends, and predate the National Guard. (Some units in the East track back directly to specific Colonial militia units, and predate the United States. The senior regiments in the Army are Guard regiments). But it’s doubtful that any Guard unit anywhere has a foundational story quite as unusual as Alaska’s.

In World War II, Alaska, purchased from a cash-hungry Russia in 1867, was still a Territory. For our foreign and I-hated-history readers, a Territory is an area that is not sufficiently mature in population or civilization to be a State (or to be set free as an independent nation). Most of the states west of the Original 13 Colonies spent times a Territories before being admitted to the Union as States. The last two Territories with statehood potential were Alaska and Hawaii, both of which got their star on the American flag within living memory — in 1959. The remaining Territories are various islands that are essentially welfare dependencies, uninterested in the responsibilities attendant on either Statehood or statehood.

But as a large, remote, resource-rich but population-poor area, Alaska was essentially undefended until the Second World War. There were no garrisons, no fortifications, no coast artillery. (There was so much coastline that the very idea of defending it overloads the military mind). Communications were poor, with many tiny hamlets connected only by seasonal transport like boats and dogsleds, or by spindly bush planes. There had never been a foreign power interested in seizing it — the Russians sold it willingly in part because they had their own resource-rich and population-poor area in Siberia, Canada was a Dominion of friendly England, and the other Pacific powers were too weak to be a threat — before the rise of Japan.

What Alaska did have was a population of indigenous natives who were as patriotic as any other American, and who needed only to be armed and subordinated to military authority to provide a skilled and gifted reconnaissance and presence patrol capability. What Alaska didn’t have was a military man who could see that. Prior to Pearl Harbor… let’s hear from Ernest Gruening, Territorial Governor during this period:

The Army and Navy high brass were as unimpressed by Billy Mitchell’s 1935 signallizing of the strategic importance of Alaska — in his last public appearance — as they were hostile to his previous forthright foresightedness concerning the value of air power in war.

As late as November 1937, General Malin Craig, Chief of Staff of the United States Army, rejected Alaska Delegate Anthony J. Dimond’s written plea for endorsement of an Army air base in Alaska “for the reason that the mainland of Alaska is so remote from the strategic areas of the Pacific that it is difficult to conceive of circumstances in which air operations therefrom would contribute materially to the national defense.”

The same unimaginative mentality prevented the start of the Alaska Highway until Pearl Harbor had brought a rude awakening.


Even today, a lot of these villages are not accessible by year-round road. Dogsled, boat, airstrip are your choices, depending on season and weather (all of the small pictures here embiggen with a click).

Gruening organized an Alaska National Guard, led by white Army veterans, only to find it Federalized as the 297th Infantry Regiment and shipped out in August, 1941, leaving him, again, without home defense. This caused him to seek a Plan B.

The strategic importance of Alaska arose from its position on the Pacific Rim, its extractive industries, and its utility in the flow of Lend-Lease aircraft and air-delivered supplies to our Soviet allies. This caused the Army to, belatedly, send a lot of troops under the able Simon Bolivar Buckner to build a railroad and highway, and garrison the populated, by which the Army meant the white-populated, parts of the Territory. The Alaskan forts and air bases date originally from this period.

Along with bulldozers, graders, lots of rifles, and camp followers, the Army also brought its own culture. Heavy with officers from the Jim Crow South — Buckner was one — it was a segregated Army. To Buckner and men like him, men of great ability, there was one blind spot: they could see no merit in anyone who was not white, and as far as they were concerned, the difference between Eskimo and black man was a lot less than the difference between either and whites. A strict system of racial segregation operated on and off base. This applied to the Alaska natives as much as it did to the many black soldiers who had been brought in to labor on construction projects. The idea of arming and training Eskimos, to a man of Buckner’s generation, was at best a waste of arms, and more probably the creation of a dangerous rear area threat. You never gave firesticks to the Indians!

To be sure, Buckner did not always couch his objections in racialist terms. Frequently he had military objections to the idea of integrating the Alaskan natives in the military. He wasn’t a bad man, although Hollywood would certainly write him as one, if they were to make a movie of this: he was just a product of his own culture and caged by his own frame of reference.

Enter Major Marvin R. Marston. A lanky man who looked a bit like John Wayne would look if he had a more prominent nose, Marston was an embarrassment to the Army: someone had made him a Major in the Air Corps based on his World War I service and postwar education and experience. “He’s no damn good!” was a commonly-expressed opinion from his superiors. The Army and the Air Corps violently expelled him from the lower 48 and sent him to the rude camp that would one day be Elmendorf Air Force Base, where he was given a do-nothing job — until Gruening, himself an eccentric’s eccentric, asked the Army for a couple of military aides. Seeing an opportunity to get rid of the major they had doing a corporal’s job, they foisted him, and another disliked officer, Captain Carl Scheibner, off on the governor, and called it a good day’s work.

Marston had come to love and admire the Eskimos, and when modern Army trucks and planes failed him, he found that their millennia of adaptation to the tundra gave him a way to get around. He and his guide, Eskimo Sammy Mogg, made one 680-mile dogsled trip to recruit Eskimo men. He earned the name “Muktuk” by besting an Eskimo champion in an eating contest, and while they may not have made an Eskimo out of him, they knew they had made a friend. For all that the Army hated Marston, Gruening formed a different opinion, as Marston brought one village after the next’s Territorial Guard online.

I had already gathered that Marston’s offense was that he wanted action, that he was not an apple-polisher, and that in cutting corners to achieve desirable objectives, such as building a Kashim, or enlisted men’s clubhouse, on the base, he had found it necessary to cut red tape and occasionally step on a few toes.

Gruening knew the Eskimo citizens and knew what they could do, and Marston and Scheibner became the men who made it happen — especially Marston, who dealt with the western area of Alaska, the area where the threat was greatest. They raised an Alaska Territorial Guard, ATG, of patriotic Eskimos that would later become the fabled Eskimo Scouts. Buckner and the conventional Army officers did everything they could to undermine the mission. When they were finally ordered to provide weapons — Gruening had connections, too, and was not shy about going over Buckner’s head — they went out of their way to find old 1917 Enfields, stored since 1918.

This famous painting hangs in the Pentagon, showing Marston issuing arms to recruits.

This famous painting hangs in the Pentagon, showing Marston issuing arms to recruits in a remote village.

With different lettering, the same poster was used to sell war bonds. Note the M1917s. One man is Eskimo, one white, and one Alaskan Indian.

With different lettering, the same poster was used to sell war bonds. Note the M1917s. One man is Eskimo, one white, and one Alaskan Indian. (It embiggens).

The Eskimo guardsmen didn’t care. They cherished and loved those Enfields, and learned to shoot them. (It was an excellent weapon; the Springfield was preferred solely because it was the product of the Ordnance Department’s own arsenals). The Enfield was featured on a famous ATG poster, painted by an ATG officer himself.

The Territorial Guard was the first time that members of many different Eskimo tribes had worked together — the Guard comprised 6,000-plus men, and a few women, of every tribe and race in the Territory. They provided defense, reconnaissance, countered Japanese reconnaissance and the quixotic Japanese balloon-bomb operation, rescue and recovery of downed airmen and of lost ground parties.

The scouts of the Alaska Territorial Guard were mostly too young, too old, or medically disqualified from the draft, which applied to Eskimos as much as it did to the men in the lower 48. The Territorial Guard were all-volunteer in the truest sense of the word: apart from a couple dozen full-time staffers, they drew no pay, and the Government didn’t even recognize them as veterans until 2000.


These rifles, too, are M1917 Enfields.

After the war, Marston was a delegate to the state’s Constitutional Convention, and a businessman and developer, and he did his part to ensure that Alaska’s natives got proper credit for being the first-class citizens he had always known them to be.

Territorial Guards at rifle practice.

Territorial Guards at rifle practice.

It would be nice to write that the Army recognized him for his achievement, but they didn’t. He left the service as he came in — a major. Buckner seems to have been sufficiently irritated by the white man who treated natives as equals that he blackballed Marston’s promotion.

Marston may be one of the most interesting characters of World War II to have never had a full biography, even though he left extensive papers (as did Gruening and Buckner).

And how does this tie in to the Alaska National Guard? Well, that regiment that went off in 1941 was filled with draftees and lost its Alaskan character. When a new National Guard stood up in the 1950s, the cadre included quite a number of former ATG soldiers — and the Alaska Guardsmen today recognize the civilian irregulars that Marston organized as among their founders.


The Gruening quotes are from his introduction to Marston’s postwar book, Men of the Tundra: Alaska Eskimos at War, and are among the excerpts available at this link:

History of the Alaska Territorial Guard

Ghost Gunner Tips & Tricks #2: Setting up a GG Station

This is a follow-up to our previous post on this general subject, which was cleverly titled Ghost Gunner Tips & Tricks #1This post is the second in what we expect to be an ongoing series.

We have the GG sitting on a rolling tool cart. Here is what is good and bad about that.


  • Good: it’s easily rolled around, and plugged into the gunsmithing workshop computer, or disconnected and rolled out of the way, because the same computer is also used as the book scanning computer and station with the Fujitsu SV600 scanner. It provides a single location for the machine and its ancillary stuff from USB cable to jigs and fixtures and some manuals and instructions. We can even keep workpieces waiting to be run in one of the drawers.
  • Bad: The GG generates a good bit of force when its axes are running, and so it has a tendency to make the base move. But if you lock the locking casters of the tool cart, it actually walks on the rubber mat atop the cart. We’re thinking a thick pad from Tractor Supply will put this to a stop, but we fear the moving cart will have an effect on finish quality,

The cart itself is a WorkSmart model that we bought, on sale, from MSC Direct. We have tool boxes from Craftsman Professional, Snap-On, Craftsman (import), and other makers as well. You may have noticed that there is a wide range of prices for what superficially seem to be very similar boxes. In our experience, the difference between them comes down to several things, all of which favor the name-brand box over the cheap Chinese stuff.

  1. The better the box, ceteris paribus, the thicker gage the metal is.
  2. The better the box, the better the drawer slides are.
  3. The better the box, the more readily repairable it is and the more available spares are.
  4. The better the box, the better prepared the metal was before painting. This affects durability, but it also affects the comfort and safety of the user, as Chinese Slave Labor Factory Nº 76214 tends not to de-burr metal, and instead leaves sharp edges on everything.
  5. The better the box, the more likely you get extras like drawer liners.

However, if your budget only extends to cheap Chinese, there’s a few things you can do to get closer to the $4000-box experience. For example, being aggressive with abrasives and touch-up paper can keep rust from gaining a toehold on your toolbox. (So can dehumidifying the working environment). Likewise, patience, red ScotchBrite, and touch-up paint can correct for lack of deburring at the factory. Don’y hesitate to get a rubbery (and contrasting) drawer liner material; this will keep the bare insides of your el cheapo box from getting all beat up, and save your tools some scars along the way. And you can hunt for used or estate sale boxes. One day ours will be for sale this way!

Our intent is to have the Ghost Gunner related tools in the top drawer and the tooling (jigs/fixtures and fasteners) in the second drawer. Since we’re currently just using the factory AR-15 jigs, and the top drawer is full of cables and pulleys for another project, everything’s in the second drawer.


Clockwise from 12 o’clock, the tools are:

  • 12-3:00: The white tray is a separator we had handy, not our ideal one, and its contents are extra M4 fasteners. We keep duplicates of all the standard jig fasteners: M4-20, M4-45, and appropriate nuts and washers (it was pretty inexpensive to buy all of these). We also have some M4-50s that are used with a bunch of washers to create an M4-51 equivalent when the M4-45 doesn’t quite reach. The Fastenal bolts are made in Taiwan and the washers and nuts in China, and they come with lot numbers for tracking, which is not required for our purposes.
  • 3-4:00: We have some manuals tucked in here. And an extra box of M4-20s just for GPs.
  • 5:00: A Sharpie, a small magnetic wand, and a nut driver set up for the M4 nuts (that’s a 7mm socket).
  • 6:00: The bolts for the two standard setups on the AR-15 milling process.
  • 7:00: More jig bolts. One of these is the above-mentioned M4-50 with extra washers, and one has a small printed nubbin that shows that it is the bolt that goes through the pivot pin holes.
  • 8:00: Appropriate Allen keys (3mm) for the M4 bolts, drill bit and end mill, ER-11 collets.
  • 9-11:00: Mallet and assorted open end wrenches. The shop’s lousy with mallets and wrenches, so we probably didn’t need to put these in here, but it’s a timesaver to have extras in here, and it’s not like they’re our only ones.
  • 12:00 and Down to the Center: The three-component plastic jig for working on the AR lower receiver to the right of the simple rubber-headed mallet mentioned above. As they’re black on a black drawer liner they might be hard to see.

Stay tuned for further reporting on this remarkable tool. Happy building!

Note: the GhostGunner is a simple, compact CNC mill developed as an open-source project by Defense Distributed. The long-term plan is for it to be at the center of an ecosystem of technology, information, and shared files. That is currently suspended due to a legal attack by anti-gun appointees in the State Department.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: JSOU Press Publications

jsou_libraryHere is a fine example of Your Tax Dollars in Action (for our international readers, Some Other Guys’ Tax Dollars in Action), being returned to the public in the form of freely downloadable publications, all related in some way to Special Operations: The Joint Special Operations University Publications.

Is that whirring we hear the sound of hard drives spooling up? Be our guest. You’ve paid for the knowledge and expertise contained in these documents. They are yours to learn from.

In 2016 alone, JSOU published nine numbered Papers, a fistful of Occasional Papers, and some themed collections of articles. They’re all here. They cover subjects like: unconventional warfare doctrine, the history of how one 7th Group battalion task force took down an al-Qaeda underground/auxiliary network in Iraq, and an evaluation of how better to meet SOF language and human domain knowledge needs. Some of it is aimed more at the academic than the practitioner, but it’s all useful stuff.

For example, at this writing the most recent of them is The Evolution of the Global SOF Enterprise from a Partner Perspective, by Lieutenant Colonel Asbjørn Lysgård, Norwegian Army. (The .pdf is here, also). LTC Lysgård is a Norwegian Military Academy graduate and longtime veteran of an element we foreigners aggregate with all other Norwegian SOF as NORSOF, but that the Norwegian services know as NORASOC. In fact, each Norwegian SOF element has its own history and skillset, and each can reach back to earlier Norwegian SOF that were formed in close collaboration with British and American SO elements in World War II.

Norwegian SOF in training.

Norwegian SOF in training.

Norway, however, following the Second World War, disbanded all its SOF units to prioritize a larger conventional force structure to meet the Soviet threat. The legacy of OSS and SOE was still present though, especially in the reserves and the Norwegian Home Guard. Finally, almost a decade after the war, Norwegian Defense Forces started to reinvest in SOF. In 1953, the Navy established the first teams of Frogmen and, in 1962, the Army established Hærens Fallskjermjegerskole (HFJS), the Army’s Commando School, to train long-range reconnaissance units for parachute insertion behind enemy lines. During the Cold War, U.S. SOF worked closely with HFJS to shape the battlefield, fighting off a potential threat from the East. Throughout the Balkan wars and the Kosovo crisis, Norwegian SOF became an expeditionary strategic deployable force, which later developed into Hærens Jegerskole/Forsvarets Spesialkommando, the predecessor of the current strategic command.

The Norwegian Special Operations Command (NORSOCOM) was established on 1 January 2014, when its first commander, Rear Admiral Nils Johan Holte, took command of the two tactical Norwegian SOF units, Forsvarets Spesialkommando (FSK), and the Navy SOF unit Marinejegerkommandoen. Since that time, the NORSOCOM commander and his staff have strengthened the long-established relations between the different SOF units around the world.

LTC Lysgård explains, from the point of view of an Allied officer, what it’s like to be one of the over two dozen partner nations in the Global SOF Network, a functional and technical means of coordination and cooperation.

In reading his paper, we learned a thing or three about the current status of interoperation among friendly SOF, and in fact it goes quite a bit further than we thought it did. If you’re interested in such things, it’s a thought-provoking read.

And if you’re not? Keep looking around the JSOU Library. You’ll find something that’s more to your taste.

Artillery in Iraq, August 2016

artillery-02They came out of the sky in the night, using tactics invented in Vietnam and honed by generations of artillerymen since. Mobile warfare demands mobile fire support; overnight, a barren scrap of desert becomes a counter in the Game of War, a temporary home to a battery of M777 lightweight howitzers.

The Army describes a recent (August) mission involving the establishment of a forward firebase, and execution of multiple fire missions.

“Do you have eyes on?” Joseph radios to the CH-47 Chinook helicopter pilots as they approach. Given the affirmative, he watches as they float toward the landing zone. With a dull thud and a cloud of dust the guns are released onto the ground and the CH-47s turn off into the night.

The 101st is known for air assault operations and Fort Campbell, the home of the unit, is where the Sabalauski Air Assault School resides. For the team on the ground, this operation is business as usual.

“Let’s go, let’s get a move on,” Joseph says to the gun crews. Working under the lime-green hue of their night vision goggles, they move their guns and begin setting up the systems, ensuring they are prepared to execute their upcoming fire missions.

The Soldiers work through the night, and by first light they’re ready to fire.


Staff Sgt. James Johnson, the fire direction chief for Battery C, sits in the back of his fire direction center truck looking intently at his radio, waiting for a call for fire.

“This is where the magic happens,” Johnson says as he concentrates on his console.

Observers, which can consist of assets from the ISF, unmanned aerial vehicles and other aircraft, acquire targets they need hit. Once the battalion headquarters located miles away in the tactical operations receives the data, they push it to Johnson and his team at the FDC.

“We process data,” says Johnson. “They [the artillerymen on the gun line] proceed to shoot.”

A few hundred feet away from the FDC, gun crews are moving around their guns in full kit, checking and rechecking minute details, making small adjustments, waiting to spring into action once the FDC sends a message.

Just then the radio crackles and Johnson grabs his hand mic, listening to the data. He then begins his battle drill, one he’s done many times before. Johnson sends a message to the gun line, “Gun 2, fire mission.”

Down at Gun 2, the crew, led by Staff Sgt. Johnathan Walker, springs up as the radio beeps; in seconds they are at the firing position going through their crew drill.

“Come on,” Walker yells to the crew as they prepare rounds and take their positions. “Let’s make money!”

The crew members look through the sites and adjust the gun as Walker yells the fire data. Attention to detail is critical during this mission; he must remember the data for each round his crew is going to fire.

“Fire!” yells the crew chief, and a Soldier gives the firing lanyard a slight tug. The gun responds to this small motion, shaking the earth around the position as a high explosive shell is launched.


The next gun fires soon after and the race is on between the two gun sections, a little company competition to see who can fire rounds the fastest and most proficiently. Even working in temperatures that exceed 100 degrees, the teams are driven.

“Let’s get through this!” Walker yells as he calls off the quadrant — up and down — and deflection — left and right — for the next round. Driven by their chief, the Soldiers move faster as the mission continues.

The dash endures for a while as the guns launch round after round. Dust hangs in the air after each round is fired and sweat stings the Soldiers’ eyes. The ammo carriers are running rounds weighing over 90 pounds from the holding point to the gun, heaving the shells into the firing tube. Walker’s voice grows hoarse as he yells adjustments and commands.

Finally, the last round is reached.

“Last round,” the ammo bearer says as he walks up to Walker. With a nod, Walker gets ready for his last command of the mission.


via The gun raid: US artillerymen support Iraqi advance on ISIL | Article | The United States Army.

And that was that. After taking fire missions from a variety of sources, the redlegs secured their guns and called the Chinooks. Where did they go?  Was it to another hasty and temporary firing position? Was it back to the FOB to rest and refit?


There are some members of ISIL who would like to know the answers to those question. And other, former, members, who are beyond knowing.

Is artillery useful in an unconventional war? Sometimes. Sometimes it’s not just useful, but indispensable.

When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws will have Booze and Weed (and Knives)

bloody-knifeHyphenated name? Check. Artist? Check. Second-generation artist? Double check. Drug user and drunk? That gets all the rest of the checks.

What odds a guy like that has any contribution to make to society, except a negative one?  But most of his ilk are merely withdrawn, dull losers — like he was, up until the murder.

Render Stetson-Shanahan may not remember the merciless moment cops say he plunged a kitchen knife into his roommate three times, but he does know he shouldn’t walk free.

“Even if I had the option to get out of here, I wouldn’t want to go,” the 26-year-old Queens artist and accused killer told The Post in an hour-long jailhouse interview on Rikers Island.

“There’s something very wrong. I need to be in a psychiatric hospital,” he said in a strained voice, looking pale and exhausted.

Actually, in any kind of a just world, he’d already have been hanged by the neck until dead, dead, dead, but he’s in New York, so that’s not in his future unless he does America a favor and does it himself.

Stetson-Shanahan was charged with second-degree murder after he allegedly snapped on Sept. 28 and brutally stabbed Carolyn Bush, 26, in the neck, arm and back with a kitchen knife inside the Ridgewood apartment the two Bard College graduates shared.

Stetson-Shanahan — the son of famed New Yorker magazine illustrator Danny Shanahan — claimed he could not remember the grisly act, but pieced together in detail the moments before and after it.

“I remember taking my clothes off for bed and telling myself that I needed to go to sleep,” he said.

“I felt my mind shifting states. It was distinct and very sudden. I started being really loud, stomping around, calling people and talking loudly on the phone. I was also talking really fast. It was like I was someone else.”

Then, he turned his attention toward his roommate, Carolyn, whom he’d been introduced to two years ago through a mutual friend because she needed a new flatmate.

“At one point I . . . asked Carolyn how to use my phone,” he recalled of the bloody night.

“She laughed, gave me a weird look and asked if everything was OK. She knew something was off.”

Just before he murdered her.

Police say this is when the frenzied artist took Bush’s life — leaving her sprawled on the floor of their second-story Stanhope Street apartment in a pool of blood. He then maniacally sank the knife into his own leg.

When asked to recall the brutal crime during the Friday interview, Stetson-Shanahan looked down, closed his bright blue eyes and said, “I’d rather not talk about that.”

No kidding, he’d rather not talk about that, now that he’s in jail for it. He’s probably bummed that the weed isn’t quite as good inside.

“The next thing I remember is running down the street barefoot in my underwear. I was almost euphoric. The pavement under my feet was wet and I was a bit cold, but I didn’t feel any pain.

How narcissistic do you have to be to murder somebody, and then be analytically concerned about your own pain? This guy isn’t crazy. He’s evil.

“I started smashing people’s car windows with my fist and a knife, I think. I was also going around asking people how to get to Manhattan. I don’t know why,” he said.

His single moment of lucidity came, he recalled, “when I registered that I wasn’t wearing any clothes and felt a bit embarrassed.”

He murders a woman in a violent outburst and he feels embarrassment. He should be feeling the rasp of rough hemp on his delicate skin — briefly.

Neighbor Joshua Cruz heard “high-pitched” screams, and spotted Stetson-Shanahan outside in his underwear and covered in blood around 11:25 p.m., Cruz said.

Cruz went outside to talk to him, and the crazed cartoonist lunged at him with a knife, Cruz said. The terrorized neighbor then called 911.

via ‘It was like I was someone else’: accused roommate killer | New York Post.

Of course, this poor woman wouldn’t have had to take in a murderous boarder if not for New York City’s rent control laws. One wonders how many people have died so that the well-connected can pass around $450-rent apartments, while their “help” has to commute an hour and a half to come in and clean up for them.

A Scientist, a Fort, an Improvised Measurement

fort_prince_of_walesAt the climatology blog Watt’s Up With That, guest blogger Tim Ball has a story of how an obscure fort in remote Churchill, Manitoba on the west coast of Hudson’s Bay became the avenue for a scientific competition between France and the British Empire that shaped the world by validating Newton’s Law of Gravitation — or would have done, if the damnable instruments worked. A key player was a British scientist of unprepossessing background:

william-walesWilliam Wales (1734 – 1798), was born in Yorkshire to working class parents. He moved to London and married Mary Green, the sister of astronomer Charles Green.

He obviously showed mathematical ability because in 1765 he entered the employ of the Astronomer Royal, Sir Nevil Maskelyne. He began work on one of the two major scientific challenges of the day, the accurate determination of longitude. However, that was to become interlinked with the other challenge, testing of Newton’s Theory of Gravitation, published in 1687.

via Scientific Integrity is Constant Challenge: A Classic Historical Example | Watts Up With That?.

measuring_the_transitThere were several possible ways to do this, and the way that Sir Nevil proposed, Wales didn’t think would work. He got assigned to do it any way — he would go to Churchill, and on the other side of the world, explorer Captain James Cook would be in Tahiti, and they would observe the transit of Venus across the Sun, timing it with precision chronographs, and then by application of trigonometry, they’d have the missing ingredient to plug into Newton’s law of gravity.


Previous attempts by both European rivals had failed; the next window was 1769.

newtons_law_of_gravityThe major reason for the 1761 failure, inadequate instrumentation, was not resolved. Nobody knew this better than William Wales. In a parallel of today’s global warming fiasco, the scientists, who were effectively bureaucrats or relied on sponsorship, believed that political support and more money was the answer. So Wales faced a dilemma, keep your mouth shut and do what the King and his lackeys like Maskelyne wanted, or face incarceration and possibly even hanging.

Wales didn’t think the instruments were accurate enough.

Finally, Wales agreed to take up the challenge, but only after negotiating a generous contract that included provision for his family should he not return….

Wales knew the accurate timing was essential to success. He also knew the problems of producing an accurate chronometer. One was specially constructed, and on the Atlantic crossing, he tested it rigorously only to discover it was losing several minutes every day. It was inadequate.

They took a prefabricated observatory with them and on arrival set it up on the SE bastion of Fort Prince of Wales.

It was a working fort, and England was intermittently at war with France.

It was a working fort, and England was on a brief respite in its intermittent war with France at this time.

In the Georgian era, Wales couldn’t just send for a new chronograph from the remote wilderness of Churchill. And he couldn’t use the one the Royal Observatory had given him. He was trying to measure an angle that would turn out to be 9.57 milliradians. So what options were left?


He built a sundial. (Image at right). Archaeologists unearthed it at the Fort and it now rests in the Parks Canada museum in Churchill.

The challenge for Wales was to establish some way of determining time more accurately than with his failed chronometer. During the restoration of the Fort, a remarkable sundial was dug up at the base of the wall. They also found an iron spindle that allowed the user to turn any of 24 faces toward the Sun.

Ball and Leslie Ross were able to demonstrate that the sundial definitely was Wales’s: it contains the same exact error that is in his after-action report to Sir Nevil and the Royal Society.

In a 1984 article “Observations of the Transit of Venus at Prince of Wales’s Fort in 1769” I identified the latitude Wales had calculated for the Fort. Leslie Ross, a researcher at the National Museum of Canada, was also doing research on the sundial. He asked where I obtained the latitude. I told him it was the one Wales recorded in his journals. He said the latitude matched his calculations for the latitude of the major sundial face (June 1983 Stone sundial from Fort Prince of Wales. Research Bulletin #193). It was clear evidence that Wales made the sundial because both latitudes were different from the actual latitude by 11 minutes. I was skeptical that a sundial could be better than even a faulty chronometer, but Ross told me it could determine the time to within two minutes, which made it superior to the watch.

And the report itself says something about Wales:

On his return to England Wales … refused to submit his report. He said the results were of no value. The timing was imprecise, and the telescope optics were inadequate. Wales was finally ordered to submit a report that was published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.

We are fortunate he complied because Wales did not waste his time but carried out countless other experiments and made many observations. He brought the first barometers and thermometers, constructed to Royal Society specifications to northern North America. He produced an excellent instrumental record beginning in 1768. This continued after he left because he instructed the surgeon in their use.

In the end, Wales’s imperfect measurement of the transit of Venus was overtaken by better measurements, validating Newton’s law. And he resumed work on his other great challenge, measuring longitude.

Far from being angry with Wales, his peers were impressed with his integrity, and when he resumed work on the longitude problem…

Two years after his return to England, the Board of Longitude commissioned him to sail as astronomer and navigator with Captain Cook. Wales job, in association with William Bayly, was to test Kendall’s K1 chronometer based on the H4 of John Harrison.

cooks-chronometersThese superior chronometers resolved many problems, and Wales is a fine representative of the many nameless scientists who toiled (and still toil) in the shadows, gradually dragging the world of the past into a better informed future. Do Read The Whole Thing™.

And what of Fort Prince of Wales? This may have been its high point. While it had 42 guns and another battery of six more across the Churchill River, its garrison was depleted and construction ceased after 1771. During a French raid in 1782, the garrison comprised only 39 civilians, and the fort was surrendered to the French with no resistance or loss of life, and its structures and goods sacked and burned. The cannons on its walls? They never fired a shot in anger. It’s now a Canadian national park and tourist attraction… for tourists willing to travel to someplace that is still quite remote.

What Good is a Dirt-Cheap Pistol?

Here’s an interesting appreciation of the Jimenez J.A. NINE 9mm pistol, an el cheapo blowback 9 x 19 pistol, as sold to those self-defenders who can’t spend $200 after tax on a pistol, and as disparaged by all right-thinking pistoleros.

The Jimenez has an interesting corporate history and uses some purpose-selected manufacturing technology. The die-cast Zamak parts (the cheap pot metal used in cast toys, like Matchbox cars) are cast to near-net shape, and that keeps costs down. The simplicity of the pistol does, also. (It also means the heavy slide and stiff spring are hard for some percentage of humans to manipulate). Everywhere you look in the design, you see that simplicity and low cost were the design objectives. Aesthetics and durabilty and, really, everything else, took a back seat. For instance, look at the magazine floorplate with its clever little bend.

It’s not a Glock, but you can’t buy a Glock for the price of this. Not a used Glock. Not for the price of two Jimenezes (Jimeni?), actually. (Ugh. Vision of dual-wielded Jimenez pistols whilst leaping through the air in a Hollywood blockbuster). But it works with cheap ball ammo (which is what it will almost certainly be loaded with, the cheapest 9mm in the store), and it hits a price point that poor people can meet.

Yes, they can get better used guns for that money, if they shop around and know what the hell they’re doing. But who knows what he’s doing, when he buys his first gun, if he didn’t grow up in it? For most of the people who buy these, it’s a rational buy.

Now, two kinds of people tend to tut-tut at the Jimenez and its Jennings and Bryco ancestors. Those are gun snobs like us, and anti-gunners. We tend to dismiss the pistol as cheap junk, and the anti-gunners have named guns like this Saturday Night Specials. And it’s true: every Monday morning, there’s probably a couple of Jimenezes or their antecedents in the evidence lockers of Chicago. But many thousands of these are made — almost a quarter million in the last five years, according to official ATF production reports.

Year Report Link Production










 five-year total of Jimenez production: 229680

This sounds like a lot of guns, but in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t. It’s half a year’s SIG domestic handgun production, for instance, but spread over five years. Still, it’s obvious that for all that the gun-ban groups like to call them Saturday Night Specials, and even our fellow gun culture members dismiss them as, for example, “evidence-locker stuffers,” most of these guns must not be used in crime… instead, they’re the home-defense gun of choice for the home defender who doesn’t have any of the good choices that most of us take for granted.

The history of Jimenez is interesting. It is the descendant of several companies that made small, cheap pistols in California and Nevada. The ur-founder was George Jennings, whose original product was the Raven .25,  and his son Bruce and son-in-law Jim Davis founded various similar companies making similar firearms. Their names include Raven, Jennings, Bryco, Lorcin, and some others. Jennings and Bryco were sued into nonexistence in the California courts after one clueless idjit shot another clueless idjit with one. (He didn’t know that if you take out the mag the gun still has a round in the chamber, and he pointed it at his friend and pulled the trigger. Moral of story: choose better friends. But a California jury thought that was proof that the gun was unsafe. Moral of story: choose better states).

How the same apparent operation went from Jennings to Jimenez is a tangled tale. The story in the industry is something like this: at the bankruptcy auction, the high bidder for Jennings’s assets was one Jimenez, previously a foreman at the company. The source of his half-million dollar bid is not clear. Jennings/Bryco had operated in California under some kind of questionable deal where the company’s pot-metal pistols passed the California tests that Colt and S&W and SIG flunk all the time, to the benefit, no doubt, of some state official’s off-the-books retirement fund.  That same dope deal wasn’t available to Jimenez, so he relocated to Las Vegas and later Henderson, Nevada.

Former owner Bruce Jennings sheltered some of his assets by redomiciling in Florida. Under the Florida homestead law he was able to shelter assets from the judgment by investing in an expensive home. As far as we know, while  the plaintiff’s attorneys got paid (being lawyers, they always pay themselves first), the actual plaintiffs, we believe, have gotten skunked.

That was not Jennings’s only unhappy result in a courtroom. For one thing, he had previously been convicted for busting his wife’s jaw, in 1985.

[I]n a newspaper interview in 1992, Jennings admitted that he had assaulted his wife. “I lost my cool, and I hit her,” he said. “My wife had taken all the bonds, the Rolexes, the diamonds and the gold.”

And he would subsequently be convicted for some kind of child porn or child sex offense, and is now Federal Inmate number 57403-018, who’ll get out in 2020-something, if he lives that long. That is some of the ugly backstory to this ugly gun.

It’s fair to say that this unlovely and unloved firearm is not going to evolve into a swan. That only happens in fairy tales, kids. But it does fill a market niche, and

Here’s To the One-Hitch SF Guys

The Special Forces Memorial Statue -- Bronze Bruce -- memorializes our sacrifices in war and peace, and has done so since the 1970s. Image: SFC Jason Baker, US Army SF Command, 2010.

The Special Forces Memorial Statue — Bronze Bruce — memorializes our sacrifices in war and peace, and has done so since the 1970s. Image: SFC Jason Baker, US Army SF Command, 2010.

When originally conceived, Special Forces was not for beginners, and you couldn’t expect to just join up off the street. In the 1950s, most of the members were career NCOs, especially from the Airborne Infantry, then the Army’s corps d’elite; many were Lodge Act immigrants, prized for their language skills; and a few were young bucks whose potential had caught the eye of one or more of the grizzled World War II and Korean War vet sergeants. You always had to be a triple volunteer: for the Army, for Airborne, and for SF.

Not many of those Originals are left. We can think of only one guy we know from the original manifest who’s still looking at the grass from the blade end, although there’s certainly a few others that we’re not in touch with. But from the very first, Special Forces had a guerrilla mindset (as well as a guerrilla warfare mission) and called for the knowledge and maturity of long-service soldiers. On the enlisted side, it was a specialty for career men. (In those days, tours in SF would usually be interleaved with tours in infantry, or even recruiting or drill-sergeant duty).

The officer side was a little different, because Special Forces was deeply mistrusted by most of Big Green, and a promising career officer might well poison that career by putting on the unofficial Green Beret — or even the post-1961 official one. SF tended to collect free-thinkers and eccentrics, ranging from men with Lawrence of Arabia potential to men with Lawrence of Arabia narcissism (the movie didn’t help). This was good and bad at once.

SF Recruiting Poster pick it upOver the years, it also developed that SF had some great assignments that were in high demand and one assignment that was proportionally much smaller than Big Green’s commitment to the area — Korea. This is significant because Korea, which has been expected to break out in war at any time since 1953, was an unaccompanied tour, often shunned by married or family men — if they could. As an Infantry officer, there was only one way out of orders to Korea in the 70s or 80s — volunteer for SF. (In the early part of that period, the separate SF Officers’ Course was less demanding. Starting about 1981-82, the difficulty for officers rose to equal and later to exceed the challenges facing the NCO students). A guy who went SF to stay out of the Land of the Morning Calm was probably not going to impress us, and there was high attrition among characters like that.

But for all the career guys who came in and did one tour after another, whether they were Managing a Career like some, or just having the time of their lives and unwilling to stop, teams were filled out with junior commo, weapons, engineers and medics who were in for one tour and out. As it was, it was rare to have a “12-man ODA” of more than nine men. This was, in a way, deliberate; we’d rather hold the standards and roll shorthanded than lower the bar to meet the applicants. It often meant a very junior junior had to step up into a senior commo, weapons, engineer or medic position.

Sometimes one-and-out was always their plan. Sometimes it was the many sickeners of Army culture that drove them out. Sometimes these guys had high-functioning wives that needed to live somewhere other than an Army town where shopping meant pawn shops, and entertainment, pole-dancing bars. They did one and out. And they did it honorably and they did it well.

Of our Light Weapons section only a few of us stayed in beyond that one tour. Most of the real memorable characters from SFQC were one and out. Guys went to college, to their family’s business, to other agencies, or they tried to please wives for whom the team was always the Other Woman.

But we’d never have been able to field 54 teams in a major exercise without those one-and-out SFers. They were as SF as any of us, we needed them, and by and large they performed and we missed them when they were gone.

But there’d be a new crop of young guys, who paradoxically got younger every year, and they kept the team young and kept us from losing track of the basics or overlooking any fundamentals. It was great having them, and we wish them all well in the rest of their lives.


Re: sickeners. Our observation was that everything that was bad about SF was something that it inherited from Big Army, and everything that was good about SF was SF-specific.

Our class was big, and Light Weapons was divided into two sections, one that met in the HALO Barn behind the closed-due-to-stabbings Yntema Club, and one met in Arms Room #4. So most of us only kept track of the guys in our own section.

The club, yclept the Enema Club by one and all (soldier humor is not subtle), was named for an SF hero — posthumous MOH — from Vietnam, Gordon Yntema, but SF men were well advised to steer clear when it was open. The crowd was more like a seething mob of violent minority privates from the support units of the 18th Airborne Corps, and the knife fights were officially out of hand when one of them killed a responding MP.