Category Archives: Uncategorized

OT: The Medicare Wheelchair Scam

After the accident, Felipe was determined to make it back to cruise night.

After the accident, Felipe was determined to make it back to cruise night. Fortunately, Medicare bought him a powered wheelchair.

An absolutely fantastic report at The Washington Post goes into depth about a long-running Medicaid fraud — and the feeble attempts by the .gov to stop it. It reminds us that the incompetence and cupidity of the VA doesn’t exist in a vacuum: it’s the norm of DC agencies. Any expectation for them, other than failure, probably isn’t reasonable.

This summer, in a Los Angeles courtroom, [scam participant turned prosecution witness] Bonilla described the workings of a peculiar fraud scheme that — starting in the mid-1990s — became one of the great success stories in American crime.

The sucker in this scheme was the U.S. government. That wasn’t the peculiar part.

The tool of the crime was the motorized wheelchair.

The wheelchair scam was designed to exploit blind spots in Medicare, which often pays insurance claims without checking them first. Criminals disguised themselves as medical-supply companies. They ginned up bogus bills, saying they’d provided expensive wheelchairs to Medicare patients — who, in reality, didn’t need wheelchairs at all. Then the scammers asked Medicare to pay them back, so they could pocket the huge markup that the government paid on each chair.

A lot of the time, Medicare was fooled. The government paid.

Since 1999, Medicare has spent $8.2 billion to procure power wheelchairs and “scooters” for 2.7 million people. Today, the government cannot even guess at how much of that money was paid out to scammers.

Now, the golden age of the wheelchair scam is probably over.

But, while it lasted, the scam illuminated a critical failure point in the federal bureaucracy: Medicare’s weak defenses against fraud. The government knew how the wheelchair scheme worked in 1998. But it wasn’t until 15 years later that officials finally did enough to significantly curb the practice.

This is one where you really ought to Read The Whole Thing™. And watch the video, which isn’t simply a duplication of the text. Investigative reporter David Fahrenthold, definitely a talent to watch, has really done a fantastic job on this (many other Post reporters and support staff seem to have helped, too).

When they cover our subject, the press usually stink. And when they try to cover for government agencies, they usually stink. But once in a while you see a story like this that is a little glimmer of what newspapers used to be.

This is What Happens When You Call the Cops!

This is what happens when you call the cops — you get your rights violated and you all get shot. Rap video, so it’s not to everyone’s taste. (It’s good as rap goes, though: catchy).

Never heard of this guy, Rob Hustle or his co-star Liv. But then, rap isn’t exactly our world. He actually looks like a guy named Rob we served with in 20th Group — not a very likely candidate for rap stardom.

We posted this because the Seabrook cops we’ve covered before have a starring role (they’re the ones bouncing a suspect off the concrete block wall). In their defense, what the video doesn’t show is that the 6’2″, 140-lb doper kid was trying to spit on the 6’7″, 270-something-lb cop, which makes his Come-to-Jesus meeting with Officer Cinderblock a little more understandable, if not exactly justifiable. Mind you, the union is holding this (and the following coverup) out as model police work, but that’s what cop unions do — stand up for the bad cops and dirtbags. On the other hand, the media will never tell you the kid was alternating between being compliant and spitting on the cops (although the report that’s available at the Weaponsman link does say that, if you read it. Which most of the media must not have done).

Anyway, we liked the video, and we’ll still call the cops if we need ‘em. Although maybe not in New Jersey.

Hat tip, Clark at Popehat.

2nd Amendment Writer Howard Nemerov Hangs Up his Pen

You had to read to the end of Howard Nemerov’s recent column on the primary victory of Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke to learn that Howard, whose writing has been entertaining and informing the gun culture from a position at Pajamas Media since 2010, is calling it quits:

On this high note, I’d like to thank you for reading my columns over the years. I almost lost an important business contact over my Second Amendment writing. Due to many business factors, I’m discontinuing my journalistic endeavors. I don’t like the political aspect of this decision, but it’s clear that writing isn’t going to provide the income stream I need to secure our finances, though it risks thwarting that goal.

Well, a wise man once said, “No one but a fool wrote, except for money.” And so it doesn’t work, without enough money. We wish Howard success in pursuing the money; we fools will try to hold up the writing end.

He notes that his signature data-driven articles were not rocket surgery:

Perhaps somebody else can step in and do research like I did. It’s a fairly straightforward process:

  1. Here’s what they said.
  2. Here’s what the data says, provided by the same government we’re told will protect us if we disarm.
  3. If they continue pushing their agenda despite the overwhelming evidence that they’re…uh, mistaken…can we trust they’re telling the truth that we’ll be safer?

Like many in the gun culture, Howard initially started out on the other side:

I began over a decade ago because I was one of those well-meaning liberals who believed the propaganda that we’d be safer in a disarmed society. I believed that gun owners were the problem. I believed that the Brady Campaign were the good guys.

Then, at the behest of a law enforcement client, I set out on my own research journey. I learned that gun control is both racist and sexist in its impact on the real people who have to live in disarmed societies. That offended my liberal sensitivities: I was outraged. So I began to write, first for small local sites, and then for progressively large sites. PJ Media was kind enough to hire me to write features in 2010, and it’s been a good run.

via The PJ Tatler » Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Wins Primary.

One wonders if he is related to the late Howard Nemerov, WWII pilot and poet, author of The War in the Air:

Seldom the ghosts come back bearing their tales
Of hitting the earth, the incompressible sea,
But stayed up there in the relative wind,
Shades fading in the mind,
Who had no graves but only epitaphs
Where never so many spoke for never so few:
Per ardua, said the partisans of Mars,
Per aspera, to the stars.
It is worth finding, to read the whole thing; that is perhaps half.

Army: Screw Congress, we’re all in on new camo. Again.

operational-camouflage-patternHey, just because some dumb Congressmen passed a law saying no more bottomless flow of money so that every new service chief can play GI Joes with his troops, doesn’t mean the Army has to follow the law. They’re adopting a new camouflage called the Operational Camouflage Pattern or OCP. It looks a lot like the old OEF Camouflage Pattern or … OCP… but it’s different for reasons we will explain.

After an extensive and long lasting camouflage improvement effort, the U.S. Army has decided to adopt the new Operational Camouflage Pattern as a replacement for the Universal Camouflage Pattern popularly known as UCP. The Army Combat Uniform will still be utilized with the new OCP Pattern. The new pattern is known as Scorpion W2, but will be named OCP for official purposes. Uniforms will start being issued in the Summer of 2015.

via Blog.

The original OCP is a knock-off of Crye Multicam, which is a copyrighted design. The Army wanted to adopt Crye Multicam, but didn’t want to pay Caleb Crye. So they made a couple of small changes in the new OCP, and they won’t. As you can see when you embiggen MSG OCP above (doesn’t he look like the guy in Heartbreak Ridge who says, “Me an’ the Major is buildin’ an eeee-light fightin’ force!”), it’s pretty indistinguishable from Multicam.

But it was redesigned by Army lawyers to screw over its actual designer. Niiiice.

Not very ethical, but you know the guys who made this decision gave each other top OERs. The Peacetime Army is fully upon us.

Kill a Man, Go to Jail. Kill 545, Get a Bonus.

VA-veterans-affairsThe Veterans Administration released a letter they wrote to a congressman via a friendly Associated Press reporter. In the letter, the VA, caught grossly misrepresenting patient deaths due to its screw-the-patients-grab-the-bonus culture

As they expected, their AP toady took their spin on board, misrepresenting their systematic lying as just one side of a “dispute”:

The dispute centers on a VA “fact sheet” distributed to Congress in April. The report said a review of 250 million cases dating to 1999 showed 23 veterans with gastrointestinal cancers had died under questionable circumstances related to treatment delays.

The department said in a statement Thursday that officials had actually reviewed only 11,000 cases over a two-year period, from October 2009 to September 2011, and found that 24 veterans had died.

OK, so even on their own narrowly constrained, two year study of 11,000 cases, they lied about the results (23 instead of 24, apparently to avoid “two dozen deaths” headlines). That’s pretty bad.  But then they misrepresented this as the results of a fifteen-year study of 250,000 patients.

Note also that they’re now just “deaths.” Bad stuff that just happens, not real live veterans killed by VA neglect and corruption, which is the real case. Those 24 dead vets are “only” 0.22% of the 11,000 cases, but none of them needed to die, and we know the problem may have existed before 2009 and has certainly grown in the bonus-happy years since 2009.

Assuming that the 2009-11 period was typical and extrapolating from one year’s results, there are potentially 180 cancer patients killed by VA neglect and corruption in the full sample (=12 x 15). Extrapolating from the percentage and sample, we come up with 546 cancer patients projected to have been killed by VA neglect and corruption, out of the larger sample of a quarter-million cases.

Note that Chris Kyle didn’t kill that many guys, and it was his job. And he was good at it.

[The lied-to Congressman, Jeff] Miller [R-FL] called the discrepancy “a blatant attempt to mislead Congress, the press and the public” by manipulating the number of deaths linked to treatment delays.

“To chalk all this up to a misunderstanding … doesn’t pass the smell test,” Miller said, noting that former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and other officials had cited the April fact sheet as evidence that treatment delays had caused relatively few deaths over a 15-year period.

The VA said the confusion occurred because several reviews were underway at the same time, including two that became “intertwined in written and oral statements, leading to confusion” that reached all the way to up to Shinseki, who repeated the 1999 claim in comments to reporters after a Senate hearing in May.

via VA apologizes for error in patient-death report |

The VA statement didn’t even cop to the misrepresentation, but obfuscated the cause and consequences of its staffers’ dishonesty:

VA inadvertently caused confusion in its communication…There was no intent to mislead anyone with respect to the scope or findings of these reviews.

Got that? If you were confused by them saying the death total is 23, when it’s really somewhere between 24 and 545, it’s all your fault. As the famous line from Animal House goes, “You f’d up. You trusted them.”

No one at VA has been held responsible for the barrage of discredited lies that have emanated from the agency’s 50-plus six-figure press flacks, the perjury of all senior leaders in Congressional testimony, or, for that matter, the pay-for-play neglect that has left perhaps a battalion of vets prematurely dead so administrators could enrich themselves.

Kill one person, go to jail. Kill 545, get a bonus.

Exercise for the reader: make a similar error in your Form 1040. Put 15 years’ Schedule C expenses against last year’s income. And when the IRS calls you on it, tell the g-men that your data became “intertwined in written and oral statements, leading to confusion” and you “inadvertently caused confusion” and see just how far that gets you.


Tour d’Horizon (French for, Clearing the tabs)

Tour d’Horizon is an occasional feature where we comment briefly on links that were interesting, but not interesting enough to trigger our damnable prolixity to the extent of an independent post.

ITEM: Make a Little Kyle Smile, whom we’ve mentioned a time or two before, is holding a raffle to raise money for the Chris Kyle’s widow Taya and her kids. Kyle should need no introduction to this august readership. A Who’s Who of gear vendors have been throwing things in and the raffle keeps growing. Here’s what AS says:

McMillan Tac .338 Lapua Magnum Package w/Scope
GA Precision MK13 .300 WinMag Rifle
Larue Tactical PredatOBR 7.62 Rifle
Larue Tactical PredatOBR 5.56 Rifle
SIG Sauer MK25 P226 9mm Pistol
William W. Harsey Fixed Blade Knife
Strider Knives Custom Folding Knife
Specter Gear Plate Carrier/Nylon Kit
Hornady Ammunition
…..And possibly MORE!

A .338 like that was Chris’s favorite way of expressing himself long distance, so it has pride of place.

Since that was written, we hear that a lot more vendors have thrown in, and a lot of them are mentioning it on their websites… Weatherby, Kryptek, many more. There will be at least five winners, and first prize winner gets choice of the prizes, second prize gets choice of the remaining, etc. The drawing will take place on the last day of the SHOT Show (23 Jan 15) and you can enter up to the 22nd. Info here at American Snipers.

If you feel diffident about raffles, and just want to donate to the family, they’ve made sure that you can do that, too.

Maybe we ought to set up our own raffle for Jesse Ventura, poor baby.

ITEM: Small-town Cops Lay a PR Egg

We get that the Doraville, GA, PD is excited to have an M113 (a Vietnam-era armored personnel carrier) for their SWAT Team. We guess their IED and RPG threat level is low enough that they don’t need an MRAP, or maybe their application is pending. Anyway, here’s the video.

The name of the song, and the reason they edited out the chorus which repeats the song name? “Die, Motherfucker, Die!” Apparently the video was amped up by a “buff” (aka “wacker”), but the Doraville cops had it on their site. (It has since been deleted, since coming to nationwide attention).

Exercise for the reader: imagine the uses of this video to defense and plaintiff’s attorneys. Expect it to be deleted in 5, 4, 3….

Hat tip, Radley Balko in the Post.

ITEM: ATF Goes Full Retard, and Loses

The ATF’s controversial strategy, exposed in a Pulitzer-bait series by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, to build stings by leveraging their 1811s’ intellectual superiority over down-and-out retarded people ran into a roadblock in July when a jury acquitted Alexis Davis, who has an IQ of 59 and reads at a seven-year-old’s level, of the two most serious counts; a third count was later dismissed by demoralized prosecutors. No word on the IQ and reading levels of Yannick DesLauriers, case agent, or Director B. Todd Jones, whose brainchild the “target-the-tard” strategy has been.

Naturally, ATF’s airhead Ginger Colbrun defended the case and the ATF’s “target-the-tard” offensive to the Journal-Sentinel’s John Diederich. Her IQ and reading levels were likewise unavailable. Even Eric Holder has said people will be held accountable, but no one has been. Most recent update at the J-S: a Congresswoman is “surprised” that there were no consequences for any of the ATF misconduct documented by Diederich and the J-S team.

ITEM: Eric Holder’s “Choke Point” Anti-Gun Offensive

They lied to Congress that they’ve backed off, but the DOJ is still pressuring banks to force the accounts of gun shops to close — and banks like SunTrust in Georgia are still doing it. Some banks, like Bank of America, are institutionally anti-gun, but others like SunTrust are responding to the coercion; the Atlanta-based bank recently pulled the plug on an SC pawnbroker for selling guns:

The letter states, “Under the Rules and Regulations for Deposit Accounts, and as a result of our recent decision, we must ask you to close the below listed SunTrust accounts.”

“The only thing that they will tell us is that we have been deemed a prohibited business type,” [shop owner Morris] Williams said.

Some examples of what could be considered prohibited businesses are weapons, porn products, bankruptcy lawyers and psychic services businesses.

Why is SunTrust so amenable to government pressure? It might have been the $4.85 Billion in bailout money, that kept them from going under and let them raise their CEO’s compensation about 800%. Maybe.

Among the particular individual DOJ implementers that carry out this political abuse, specific oathbreakers who appeared and lied to Congress were:

  • Scott Alvarez, the Federal Reserve’s general counsel;
  • Stuart Delery, assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice’s civil division;
  • Richard Osterman, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s acting general counsel;
  • Daniel Stipano, deputy chief counsel at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

You might want to write those names down. They are not your friends, nor the Constitution’s.

ITEM: Mazagglia Gets His Life Sentence

Murderer and perv Seth Mazzaglia (rhymes with “azalea”) got a life sentence w/o the possibility of parole, and “had to listen to…” no fewer 13 members of his family “bitch and whine” at the sentencing hearing. Mazzaglia is the guy who strangled a girl who wouldn’t do a threesome with him and his GF, another fine piece of human excrement; and then he raped her dead body, and the two of them cast it into the deep, and then he was all bent out of shape that he actually has to listen to his victim’s family criticize him. We are not making that up. He gets out… well, never; he also has a bunch of other sentences for small crap that he’ll still have to do if the two murder convictions are overturned (in NH, murder one and murder one with a sexual element are separate specifications). Details available at Seacoast Online, including a picture of this slug and his unhappy face. Crime isn’t caused by anything but criminals, and while it would be more just, in an Old Testament way, to strangle him and throw his worthless carcass to the lobsters, this is the best we can expect in 2014.

There are two S’s in New JerSSey: Victim arrested, guns seized

Jersey cops slam and bang a crime victim's guns into confiscation. Feel safe yet, Garden Staters?

Lawless New Jersey cops slam and bang a crime victim’s guns into confiscation — including an M1A1 carbine and a crossbow. They had to crack safes to get these guns off the street. Er, out of the safes. Feel safe yet, Garden Staters?

So, if you own guns, and stab somebody in the neck, the police will take your guns away. Unless you are in New JerSSey. Then if you own guns and someone stabs you in the neck, the police will take your guns away. Does it make sense? Hey, it’s Jerssey. Fuggedaboudit.

A [Saddle Brook] township man was taken into custody Friday night to be charged with having more black gunpowder stored in his house than is legally allowed as investigators continued to haul away a massive load of weaponry and ammunition collected there, authorities said.

Robert Lintner, 65, was taken to police headquarters shortly before 10 p.m., culminating a day that had begun with a morning 911 call that his wife allegedly stabbed him in the neck during a domestic dispute. By nightfall, the incident had sparked a brief neighborhood evacuation around the couple’s 313 Washington St. home because of the weapons stored there, police removal of a large amount of black gunpowder and ammunition, and a Fire Department operation in the evening to break open five large gun vaults owned by Lintner.

Bergen County Sheriff’s officers on the scene of a domestic dispute in Saddle Brook on Friday.
Township Police Chief Robert Kugler said investigators expected to find more than 100 long and short guns, which would be brought out in barrels overnight and that ”they will be identified and catalogued at a later date.”

There was no initial indication that the weapons and ammunition are illegal, he said.

via Saddle Brook man, allegedly stabbed by wife, is arrested on weapons-related charges – News –

Kugler just felt like taking them. And because he’s in New JerSSey, he can. The cops carelessly threw rare guns into barrels and loose, into pickup trucks, and made no attempt to inventory them on scene or ensure that they all made it to the station — there’s no way to be sure that the best of them don’t reside in cops’ closets, already.

And anyway, Lintner might have committed no offense except for having too much black powder, one of NJ’s thousands of ill-advertised anti-gun laws enforced by anti-gun cops, but he had an arsenal, you see. Kugler couldn’t pass up an opportunity to make him “Respect mah authoritah!”

“Our effective removal of all the gun powder rendered the home and neighborhood safe,” Kugler said. “We confidently have all the weapons we came for.”

Now say Hail Victory three times, with your right arm raised in salute.

In court, Lintner’s wife, Eileen, pleaded guilty to stabbing him. And Lintner, represented by Louis Nappen, pleaded not guilty, although his firearms and ammunition have apparently already been given the death (or hand out to the boys) sentence:

Nappen argued that authorities violated Lintner’s Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure when they searched his house after being called there to investigate the stabbing. The police confiscated nearly 200 firearms, tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition and 300 pounds of gunpowder.

“He is a law-abiding citizen and a victim,” Nappen said of Lintner after the court appearance. “I put that forward because this stemmed from him being apparently stabbed. And I have yet to see the warrant as to how or why they went into that house.”

Only a fool would call the police in New JerSSey — even if he had been stabbed in the neck. Not when the police are oathbreakers like Kugler. Which is, we are told, a good Aryan name.

Lintner isn’t the only one to feel the lash of confiscation this week in Bergen-Belsen County, either:

This was the second time this week that authorities in Bergen County made an arrest after finding a large cache of weapons. Ridgefield Park police on Wednesday charged a machinist from Pennsylvania with 21 counts of illegal weapons possession after they found a stash of 17 firearms, including three assault weapons, he had been keeping at a candle factory where he worked.

So how do you not get charged with a gun offense in Jersey? Be an actual violent criminal. Bergen County has a low (23.2% in 2012) and declining (from 24.6% in 2011) clearance rate on “index crimes,” including violent crimes and severe property crimes. Almost 10,000 index crimes went unsolved, despite the efforts of 2,012 cops. New Jersey as a whole is one of the few states that saw murders rise in recent years, and only about half of murders are cleared with an arrest or identification of a suspect (in 2012 51.7%, up from ~49% in 2011. A total of 187 2012 murders went cold). Of the three-quarters-of-a-billion-dollars in goods stolen in New Jersey, by both organized crime and unorganized Wealth Redistribution Engineers, the cops failed to recover ¾ of it. About the only thing they recovered a significant percentage of is motor vehicles and clothing.

But hey, they’re real good at confiscating guns. Priorities, you know?

10 Dumb Things You Can Do with a Gun Blog

10. Write long posts in “Press This” only to have a Safari crash erase your work. (Press This Reloaded is a better option). The good news, is that this frustrates us, not you. You never see what you lost.

09. Write posts longer than the average gun guy’s attention span. We do this about four times a work day. Think of it as letting our inner lemming out.

08. Reopen the old battles about caliber, or other “religious” wars. It’s link bait but it’s way out beyond Sturgeon’s Law: Ninety-nine percent of it is all crap. We mostly have avoided that, but that’s about to change, as we do have to make some observations on pistol caliber trends.

07. Going yawn and yawn forever. That’s when you get into writing long posts, or long series, that nobody reads.

06. Grade: Incomplete. Write the first couple parts of a series and don’t finish it. (Guilty as charged).

05. Make it all about you and your personality. Unless you have a really outsized personality, this doesn’t work. If you do have an outsized personality, you’re probably a jerk.

04. Opposite of #5: Leach all the personality out of it. We strongly believe that people want to hear from real human beings with real voices. But they want worthwhile content, so you have to find a balance.

03. Forget that a gun blog is about the guns, and their context. It would be great to vent about the maintenance issues around Hog Manor and the grounds, or indulge in some occasional dog-, cat-, wild-turkey-poults-, and kid-blogging. But that’s not why we’re here, is it?

02. Bore the readers. Not only does that turn them into ex-readers with despatch, it doesn’t do anybody, anywhere, any good.

01. Fail to enjoy yourself. Because if you’re not enjoying  yourself writing, it’s a lead-pipe cinch that no one will enjoy reading your writing. Remember all those English majors in college, the boys with one Bloomsbury affectation or another, and the girls all in berets, clutching a copy of The Bell Jar, and weeping uncontrollably? The ones who were going to write Great Novels, as soon as they were done with their MFA in Creative Writing? Seen their bylines lately? Of course not. Maybe one of them writes the side-effects disclaimers for pharma ads today: “If your sense of self-importance persists for more than four hours, call your doctor.” They forgot to enjoy themselves.

Good writing is expressing ideas, honestly and persuasively, to readers who may be your family and friends, or may be friends you haven’t met yet Bad writing is all the rest of it.

So far, we’re enjoying ourselves. How ’bout you?

A Different Auction: some Vietnam, USSR, Japanese militaria

If these patches are authentic, something we can't judge, there's a lot of collector interest.

If these patches are authentic, something we can’t judge, there’s a lot of collector interest. One of them appears to be an original RT Habu patch. Patches like this were not worn in the field, where team members were “sterile,” but on “party shirts” back on base.

We occasionally mention gun auctions on here, and we’re behind on getting word to you on some new ones with some very great rarities on offer. But we interrupted our normal schedule to notify you of an auction with some Vietnam and other rare militaria.

A small Pennsylvania auction house, Savo Auctioneers, is offering these items and similar ones (plus a lot of beer-company bar signs and other odds and ends) in an auction tomorrow. You can find the key stuff, including the address and how to set up for phone bid, at the link below:

THU, AUG 14 @ 5:00 P.M.

Preview @ 1:00 P.M.


via Auction: Thu, Aug 14 @ 5:00 P.M. at Savo Auctioneers, LLC.

We’ll have a few more pictures below, with captions of our own.

SF recon patches - savo

Two RT patches in this lot. The Lang Vei patch rings false to us — not sure why. The 11 RRU (“Radio Research Unit”) was not SF, but an ASA formation. All ASA used the cover name “Radio Research” in Vietnam. Task Force 1 Advisory Element (TF1AE) was the new (cover) name for CCN, after SF “officially” left Vietnam in 1971; this “Commo” patch would have been the base station guys, the RTs’ vital link to the world — and support. 

SF recon patches 2 - savo

The RT Fork patches look like original ones, but what’s “CCM”? And the chrysanthemum patch, we have no idea at all about.

Vietnam patches

Mostly Marine and Navy patches, but there’s an RT Habu patch in this lot.

For us, naturally, the money stuff is the SF historical patches, but there are also some unusual Japanese orders and decorations, and some relatively common Soviet ones, often with award books number-matched to the medal as was Soviet practice.

Soviet V-J MedalThis Soviet medal is one you don’t see every day — a medal commemorating the Soviet victory over Japan (the USSR joined the war on Japan after the Nazis were defeated in Europe, after a long negotiation in which Stalin basically got everything he wanted from a dying FDR.  (Like all the images here, it embiggens). Most people don’t know that the USSR declared war on Japan, but they did. One result of that is North Korea, one of Vladimir Vladimirovich’s less tractable vassals to this day.

There are numerous other Soviet awards and decorations, most of them seemed at a glance to be common commemoratives (“70 Years of the Soviet Armed Forces,” that sort of thing). Many are in better shape than this somewhat worn and stained old soldier. They would look good on the wall with a Mosin.

unknown japanese medalAnd… while we’re on the subject of unusual medals, we know nothing about this except that it’s Japanese, and beautifully designed.

It looks a little like the Legion of Honor, but with undeniably Japanese artistic lines, quite unlike the parallel awards in Western lands.

There are several other Japanese medals in the auction. We don’t know if they’re wartime Imperial or postwar medals; the Empire was never very big on medals for common soldiers, but they tended to shine their generals and admirals up pretty well.

Now, we need to get to posting about some of the exotic firearms about to go on the block.

Hat tip, a Pennsylvania SF vet who treasures his anonymity.

Ave atque vale: Robin Williams

It is with sadness that we heard tonight that actor and comedian Robin Williams has passed away from an apparent suicide. We weren’t hugely on board for his over-the-top comedy act, but we really liked him in some roles. And in 2002, friends of ours were brought together with him by duty, while he was making his first trip to entertain the Joes in Afghanistan.

They got to see him up close, warts and all, and you know what? Those guys came to love and respect him. They were fans, afterward, if not before. This is not a common reaction to extended celebrity proximity in our little world. Many celebs live in a world where everyone’s a fan, a toady, or a flunky, and they come ready to put a military security element in the “flunky” category, which can get ugly.

Williams wasn’t like that.

Over the years, Williams did so many USO tours that he internalized some of the military culture:

He learned, over the years, to spot many of the SOF guys and always expressed his deepest respect. Hey, sir, you’re the star! But he was a model of humility. If he was acting, he was good at it.

There are two roles of his that always made us grin. The first is the Cold War comedy, Moscow on the Hudson, about a Soviet defector, played with characteristically over-the-top verve by Williams. Thing is, he, and/or the screenwriters, researched the hell out of the defector experience, and he nailed it. At the time, we’d spent a lot of quality time around a lot of quality defectors, ranging from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty producers and on-air talent, DLI instructors, FLTCE instructors, and various people we debriefed as we prepared our war plans for “the big one,” which fortunately never came to be executed. Every single one of those people brought the shock trauma of being plucked from parching in the consumer desert of the East Bloc, to drowning in the consumer sea of the West. Williams shows this, visually, with an accuracy that made us, and real defectors, gasp. He was that good.

The second is his stint as T.R.’s wax dummy in A Night at the Museum. It’s classic Williams, over-the-top, less Williams playing Theodore Roosevelt than Rough Rider Six playing Robin Williams. But it’s a great performance.

Supposedly, he’d recently completed filming a sequel. How sad he won’t be there at the premiere.

Williams struggled, like so many creatives, with addiction and depression. In the end, the guy who lifted millions of hearts couldn’t lift his own. But he loved and respected the Joes. For that, much love and respect in return, and our most profound condolences to his bereaved family.