Category Archives: Consumer Alert!

Good News: ATF eForms Form 1 is back up, for Trusts & Corporations

Thompson_in_violin_caseThis is good news, and a long time coming, from lawyer David M. Goldman:

Today I received an announcement and verified that you can now process Form 1s online again. For those with a Gun Trust, you can now process these electronically again. Still no word on when Form 4s will be available to process online.

There are currently 15 legal examiners in the background investigation phase of hiring. ATF has been authorized to use overtime funding to process NFA applications and they reduced their outstanding applications by 23%. They are currently processing around 6000 applications a week and have a backlog of 62,000. This means that we might be looking at as little as 10 weeks to process applications and even quicker for electronic applications. This is a substantial decrease from the 9 -15 months we have been seeing in the past few months.

In the last 4 weeks they received 17,800 applications and processed more than 22,400 applications.

via ATF eForms adds Form 1 for Gun Trusts and time to process applications reduced. – NFA Gun Trust Lawyer Blog.

The ATF’s politically partisan managers are trying to add a mountain of inconveniences to NFA Trusts, but Trusts remain a superior way of managing your NFA firearms, and the ATF admits they will not be able to erect their Hindernisse until 2015.

So make hay while the gun shines….

For those of you owning NFA weapons as individuals, you’re missing out on some serious estate planning and legal-protection benefits.

For those of you not yet owning NFA weapons, now would be a good time. Remember, if you’d put in your Form 4 last year you might have your tax stamp (and your gun) now.

Hat tip, The Gun Wire.

Building an M1 with the CMP

A few times a year, the CMP holds an M1 armorer class. At the end of the class, you go home with an M1 that you assembled and that’s pretty much guaranteed to work. Assembling an M1 has a little more gunsmithing involved than the shake-the-box assembly of an AR series rifle or the “make it approximate and it’ll work” construction of an AK. There are special skills — like lapping bolt lugs — and special tools required. Here’s the end product:

Freshly Minted CMP Special M1

Fortunately, CMP has the tools, jigs, fixtures, and most of all, the tribal knowledge to not only help you get your M1 right, but also to understand it and how that clever little Acadian intended for it to work in the first place.

Unfortunately, the annual quota is opened once the dates are set, and fills up in minutes. So it seems to be an insidery thing, to which we, and probably you, are all outsidery.

Fortunately (again! It always comes back around to fortunately) for all of us, blogger Keads (whom we don’t know, but think we might like), was one of the lucky attendees, and spent some of his time not just building a sweet Service Special Grade M1, but also documenting the process in three informative and photo-rich blog posts.

  • Part One: Begins with a tour of the plant and its facilities — including pallets of ungraded, yet, M1 rifles, vast metric craptons of ammo, and , of all things, an ultra-high-tech air gun range used by Olympic hopefuls. Then it gets M1-active, with the mating of barrel to receiver and reaming the barrel to proper headspace. One of the first specialty tools, a receiver wrench, shows up here (in a reverse of AR practice, the M1′s barrel is secured in a vise, and the wrench is used on the receiver). The bolt lugs need to be lapped for proper mating with the receiver’s locking lugs. Go to Part 1.
  • Part Two: With the receiver barreled and the barrel reamed to proper headspace, it’s time to start assembling the parts that turn a barreled receiver into an M1 Rifle action. The CMP armorers assist as the students raid the parts bins for inspected and refinished parts. The op rod has a special gage for both dimension and trueness, or correct “bend.” The trigger mechanism was, to Keads, the hardest thing to assemble. The class did both early and late M1 rear sights. Finally the fully assembled M1 barreled action goes into a new walnut stock — more hand-fitting is called for.    Go to Part 2.
  • Part Three: In the conclusion of the piece, the students hit the CMP store (MOAR GUNZ!) and final-prep the rifle (in Keads’s case, redoing the trigger) for test fire. You can take your rifle home or ship it (which makes a difference to which tax, if any, you pay). Here’s a snip of what Keads had to say, in retrospect, about the whole experience:

My thanks to the Armorers John, Ryan, and Chris. My thanks as well to the person that herds the cats around the Custom Shop and made sure our paperwork was in order and all the other ancillary tasks that made sure the class went well, Deshay. …. If you desire to own one and learn more about it, I cannot say enough about this class or the CMP. They have both the passion and the knowledge of these tools and it shows. It is one thing to be a subject matter expert and another to relay that knowledge to others.

Go to Part 3.

For those that can’t attend the class, at least you can buy one of the CMP rifles.  If you do wither of those two things, of course, you may need this link afterward. Just helping ya out.

 

Hat tip for this story, the incomparable Tam.

St. Louis’s M1921/27 Thompsons Going on the Block

In a thorough and well-reported article at the St Louis Courier-Dispatch’s website, STLToday, police-beat reporter Joel Currier documents how 28 early Thompsons (and one M1A1) are about to hit the market, and why.

STL Police Thompsons

The department’s Thompsons are the survivors of Prohibition-era police firepower, and they’ve been armory queens since, as near as any living cop or retiree can figure out, the 1950s.

St. Louis police took them out of service perhaps 60 years ago, but 29 are still stored in a basement bunker at the Police Academy downtown, with a 30th in the crime lab. Chief Sam Dotson and some collectors think it may be the biggest police-owned stock of Thompsons in the United States.

And it is about to go on sale.

The bottom line is that the police need money, and the St Louis Police Officers’ Union is demanding a change to .40 caliber guns.  (About 20 years too late, as other departments roll back to 9mm thanks to the development of superior rounds that have closed the terminal-ballistics gap while retaining the 9′s human-interface superiority. But hey, that’s what they want, and they went 9mm in the 1990s, a good 10-15 years behind the rest of the country. They’ll be back to 9 in 2035 or so).

Jeff Roorda, the union’s business manager, understands the lure of the Thompsons. “It’d be nice for nostalgia to have those in the police department forever,” he said. “But the more pressing need now is that officers have firepower that matches the firepower in the hands of the bad guys.”

The department plans to keep at least one of the Tommy guns as a historical piece.

The collection, which includes rare 1921 and 1927 Colts and a model made in 1942, was appraised by a local dealer in May 2012 at $770,000. Police and some collectors, however, think the stash could fetch far more. It is not clear how or when the department acquired the one newer Tommy gun.

An auction of two-dozen-plus early TSMGs will bring out the advanced collectors and the top tier of NFA dealers. The early Colt-made Thompsons have a number of features particularly desired by collectors, and also have both military and civilian (criminal and police) cultural significance. The market is distorted by the 1986 manufacture ban’s imposition of an artificial ceiling on numbers, but the low production of early Thompsons (only 15,000 by Colt), and the great numbers lost, destroyed, or exported — current US law forbids their reimportation — already imposed a much lower actual ceiling on the numbers of authentic early guns, which are the guns that collectors most desire.

These particular guns have an interesting history in St. Louis, too, as the armament of an elite police squad called the “Night Riders.” That only adds to their collector cachet.

“St. Louis was one of the few cities in America where the cops beat the hoods to the punch” by getting Tommy guns, [gangster historian Dennis Waugh] said.

Police here bought at least 75 in the 1920s for use by the “Night Riders,” an overnight motor squad that targeted bank robbers and gangsters by raiding saloons and crime hangouts. It’s unclear what happened to 45 of the guns. Police say records of the original purchases were either not kept or disappeared.

A 1921 Globe-Democrat editorial painted the Night Riders in colorful terms: “Now the citizen of evil intent, skulking down dark streets or lurking at alley mouths looking for a chance to do a little porch-climbing or flat-robbing or holding up of unaware, belated residents, is most likely to have a motor car appear mysteriously in his immediate vicinity … It is the police car against the thieves’ car, the night-riders of public security against the night-riders of violence and dark deeds.”

Fifty Tommy guns arrived for the Night Riders in October 1921, according to the Post-Dispatch, which characterized the squad’s hunt for criminals during Prohibition as “red hot.” The department bought 25 more in 1927.

Whether the guns ever killed anyone — or if they were even used on duty — is a matter of debate. The guns have been used in training sessions over the years.

In examining their armory, the police also found two Lewis guns, that appear to have been lent to the department by the FBI in the 1920s and then forgotten. The Lewis guns will not be auctioned, at least not at this time. (But they’re rarer than, and probably worth as much as, the rarest of the Thompsons).

Currier’s report is very thorough and is quite accurate about what the TSMG was, and is; you owe it to yourself (and to him for his efforts!) to Read The Whole Thing™, even though we’ve excerpted some parts of it.

A Special (Belated) Request for Enlisted Fans

"Enlisted"From show creator, Kevin Biegel. Kevin has not yet conceded, even though his show was canceled and was off the air. Fox has brought the last four episodes back and in what we think (in our ignorance of all things television) is a better time slot, 6 PM Sunday. We did not get this to you in time for the first of the last four, on 1 June.

And alas, we will miss the next episode (8 June) because we’re going to be eating highway miles somewhere. But Kevin still has hope that his show will find a new lease on life, if not with Fox, with another distributor. (C’mon guys, critics love this, there is a fan base among the millions of GWOT-era veterans, and it’s hella cheaper to produce than Firefly was).

Hello everyone whose email was ever in my inbox!

I’ll keep it short:

New episodes of Enlisted start this Sunday, June 1 at 7/6c on Fox.

There are 4 new episodes, and they will be on every Sunday in June with the finale airing on June 22.

These are the best four episodes we did. The episode airing June 1, our first one back, is one of our funniest, and the finale is one of the best pieces of TV I’ve ever been lucky enough to be a part of. Even more than that South Park episode with the mouse with the penis on its back, although that one was pretty good.

If we get even the slightest rating bump, it can help us live. This may seem like a fool’s errand, but even a little bit of hope is still hope. I love this show and believe in this show too much to give up.

If you can, spread the word about the show coming back. Forward this email to your friends, ask them to do the same. If anyone knows or knows of a Nielsen family, beg them to watch. Beg, really? That’s strong. How about ask?

I do hate asking favors, but I fear no one will know Enlisted is coming back on the air for the final 4. If we can get even a slightly decent rating we can show a new home that this show has a real fan base.

Thank you so much for any help you can offer,
Kevin

It’s a great show, with lively writing and interesting characters. The gifted actors and writers bring the human side of the military to life, in an over-the-top comic way, with verve, compassion, and more than anything else, heart. They deserve to live for seasons to come.

If Biegel succeeds and saves this show, we’ll buy him a beer.

If he doesn’t succeed — and, sad to say, odds are against him — then we really can’t say it any better than this cartoon from on the occasion of the Son Tay Raid:

Son Tay Raid Cartoon

 

Former Spook Safe House Hits Market

Alvictus - safe houseAlvictus is a lakefront home with all the amenities: 13-foot-deep pool, koi pond, a genuine historic mill water wheel as a decoration, heated slate floor and 18′ ceiling in the great room, in-law suite, and 4,600 square feet of living space. It also was a CIA safe house used to house Russian and Satellite defectors in the 1970s; before that, it was owned by a high-society dilettante in a State Department job.

Alvictus may have been the original Virginia “tear-down” — a small, rustic cabin called Happy House was rebuilt by Victor Purse and his wive Alice into the large and idiosyncratic Alvictus = Alice + Victor + “US”. On the market at a reasonable ask of ~$750k, it’s convenient to an airfield in Manassas where you can keep your private jet. OK, your private Helio Courier — to keep things in the Cold War theme.

The waterfront home at 11625 Purse Drive has three bedrooms and three bathrooms, 4,654 square feet, a swimming pool, an outdoor bar and a large patio for entertainment. The sale is being handled by realtors Dwayne and Maryanne Moyers, who thoroughly researched the property’s history.

The most impressive part of the high-end home is its shadowy past.

Alvictus is every inch the brainchild of its first owners, Victor Purse, who served as State Department Deputy Chief of Protocol between 1954 and 1957, and his first wife, Alice.

via Inside Alvictus, Virginia, the CIA safe house where defecting Russian spies stayed | Mail Online.

Alvictus - lake side - safe houseYou might wonder why a guy as well-connected as Purse, whose friends included Eisenhower, JFK and RFK, Queen Elizabeth and King Saud, was Deputy Chief of Protocol. So did the Chief, who fired him. (Purse also is the guy responsible for rules that set limits on the size of gifts public servants may accept).

Purse bought the bare land in a distressed sale: the owner was charged with murdering one of the developer’s, his father’s, employees (the accused man was ultimately cleared, and another employee, a former jockey with a felony record, confessed to the murder). Purse snagged multiple lots and combined them. He was very hands-on in the construction of Alvictus, even driving a bulldozer himself, not something you think of as part of the skill set of a State Department Deputy Chief of Protocol and associate of heads of state. At one time he planned a helipad at Alvictus (it was never realized); at another, he traveled Lake Jackson in an Amphicar.

The realtors offering Alvictus say that, “Victor Purse was more interesting than most people. Just like Alvictus is to other homes,” and that’s probably true. 

After leaving State and retiring to Florida, Purse, hard up for money after multiple divorces, rented the home to an agency that manages properties for the CIA. A thoroughly researched history of the house is available at Realtors Duane and Maryanne Moyers’ website. The Moyers’ website also hosts the listing.

Hmmmm… DO WANT. How are the gun laws in Virginia? Wonder what the taxes and homeowner’s association fees are….

VA: “The problem is that the buck never stops.”

VA-veterans-affairsCrap performance is not a novel thing to the VA, something new that came in with President Obama and former Secretary Shinseki. According to the Wall Street Journal in an article called The VA’s Bonus Culture (use the google backdoor through the paywall if you’re not a subscriber),  the VA has blown off 18 previous reports of scheduling abuse and bonus fraud:

The IG’s recommendations to fix such scheduling “deficiencies” have all been ignored, so don’t expect the 19th report to be the charm.

No such expectation at this address. There is a pervasive culture of pay for piss poor performance. “Throwing more money at the VA would clearly reward failure,” the Journal writes: it’s symptomatic of “a larger dysfunction… To wit, a lack of any market or performance accountability.”

The examples are legion; this is a subset of them:

Bonuses for poor performance appear to be common. The Dayton Daily News reported that in 2010 former Dayton VA Medical Center Director Guy Richardson was awarded $11,874 in performance pay notwithstanding an IG probe that confirmed a dentist had failed to change his latex gloves and sterilize instruments over a span of 18 years. The dental clinic closed for several weeks in August 2010, but patients were only warned about their potential exposure to infectious diseases six months later. In 2011 Mr. Richardson was elevated to Regional Deputy Network Director in Maryland.

Local media have reported that former Pittsburgh VA executive Terry Wolf received a $12,924 bonus in 2011 amid a Legionella outbreak that sickened 21 veterans and killed six. Ms. Wolf ignored the outbreak in her own performance review, hailing the construction of a $38.2 million facility with “innovative extras” like a “rehabilitation pavilion complete with a putting green.”

Regional director Michael Moreland gave her top marks in his review and neglected to mention Legionella. Internal emails showed that Mr. Moreland and other hospital executives resisted Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and media inquiries. A public warning about the outbreak wasn’t issued until Nov. 16, 2012, about the time the White House finalized Mr. Moreland as a recipient of the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award (a lifetime achievement award for civil servants), which came with a $63,000 bonus. The 57-year-old retired six months after an IG report attributed the outbreak to oversight lapses.

VA officials often fly the coop before they are disciplined. Only two “non-probationary” VA executives were fired in 2012 and 2013. However, eight facing disciplinary action resigned or retired. Regional VA executives also often paper over problems at their local VA centers to bolster their own chances of a favorable rating. Only one in 435 VA executives in 2012 received a less than fully satisfactory review. Bonuses are doled out by a performance review board comprised mainly of VA executives.

Meantime, the Government Accountability Office last year reported that 80% of the VA’s 22,500 medical-care providers received $150 million in performance pay in 2011, though there’s no “clear link between performance pay and providers’ performance.”

One radiologist who was reprimanded for incorrectly reading mammograms received a $8,261 bonus. Another physician who was disciplined for refusing to see ER patients—thereby causing six-hour delays in care—was awarded $7,500 because he met one of his 13 self-directed goals. He failed to meet the other 12, including attending staff meetings.

The problem is that the buck never stops.

via The VA’s Bonus Culture – WSJ.

The Washington Post has a similar article, How the VA Developed its Culture of Coverups.  Just a taste:

About two years ago, Brian Turner took a job as a scheduling clerk at a Veterans Affairs health clinic in Austin. A few weeks later, he said, a supervisor came by to instruct him how to cook the books.

“The first time I heard it was actually at my desk. They said, ‘You gotta zero out the date. The wait time has to be zeroed out,’ ” Turner recalled in a phone interview. He said “zeroing out” was a trick to fool the VA’s own accountability system, which the bosses up in Washington used to monitor how long patients waited to see the doctor.

This is how it worked: A patient asked for an appointment on a specific day. Turner found the next available time slot. But, often, it was many days later than the patient had wanted.

Would that later date work? If the patient said yes, Turner canceled the whole process and started over. This time, he typed in that the patient had wanted that later date all along. So now, the official wait time was . . . a perfect zero days.

It was a lie, of course. But it seemed to be a very important lie, one that the system depended on. “Two to three times a month, you would hear something about it,” Turner said — another reminder from supervisors to “zero out.” “It wasn’t a secret at all.”

But all this was apparently a secret to Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, perched 12 levels above Turner in the VA’s towering bureaucracy. Somewhere underneath Shinseki — among the undersecretaries and deputy undersecretaries and bosses and sub-bosses — the fact that clerks were cheating the system was lost.

On Friday, Shinseki resigned and was replaced by his deputy.

But his departure is unlikely to solve the VA’s broader problem — a bureaucracy that had been taught, over time, to hide its problems from Washington. Indeed, as President Obama said, one of the agency’s key failings was that bad news did not reach Shinseki’s level at all.

The Post’s David Fahrenthold, who is of course not a veteran, appeared mystified that the VA became exposed as a shambolic failure so suddenly, when it…

…had been seen as a Washington success story. In the 1990s, reformers had cut back on its middle management and started using performance data so managers at the top could keep abreast of problems at the bottom.

Then that success began to unravel…. when the people at the bottom started sending in fiction, the people at the top took it as fact.

What he doesn’t get is that the perception of Washington “success” hinges always and everywhere on bullshit metrics. There’s no reason for command, top-down, remote-control data-gathering to work any better for veterans’ hospital wait times than it did for Soviet wheat harvests. And the VA’s version of the Soviet nomenklatura is the 450 Senior Executive Service satraps who rise to the top by doing the least, sucking up, and never making waves. Arrived in the upper floors of the organization, they never venture out among the plebes again.

Fahrenthold is on much firmer ground in his entertaining retelling of the origin of VA, which was rooted in corruption and scandal in the Warren G. Harding Administration, and Harding’s reaction. (This President says he’s “madder than hell” but sacks a problem Secretary very reluctantly; that President grabbed his unsat Veterans Bureau head by the stacking swivel and made every conceivable effort to throttle the life out of him, with verbal abuse in the bargain). Fahrenthold makes a thin case that this illegitimate birth led to the underperforming, wasteful bureaucracy of today.

But that, of course, assumes that the VA is something special as far as Federal agencies go.

Now, the media, and the President, are very likely to “move on” and chase the next squirrel, because they’ve made a ritual sacrifice of Shinseki, and therefore the Gods of the Media Cycle have been appeased for now. Except… all of the problems of the VA still exist, just as strong as ever. And the Gods of the Copybook Headings are made of sterner stuff than their pale media imitations.

The VA Again. Still.

VA-veterans-affairsIt gets worse and worse, or, to be strictly accurate, reporting about how bad it is continues to pile up. It appears that it was always this bad.

  • ITEM: 27 May 14. Texas VA hospitals have systematically cooked the books to pad executive compensation; the facility is “run like an organized crime syndicate”; investigations have been phony and designed not to find the misconduct. VA officials in Texas and Washington have known about the fraud for years, and covered it up. The Daily Beast:

Emails and VA memos obtained exclusively by The Daily Beast provide what is among the most comprehensive accounts yet of how high-level VA hospital employees conspired to game the system. It shows not only how they manipulated hospital wait lists but why—to cover up the weeks and months veterans spent waiting for needed medical care. If those lag times had been revealed, it would have threatened the executives’ bonus pay.

What’s worse, the documents show the wrongdoing going unpunished for years, even after it was repeatedly reported to local and national VA authorities. That indicates a new troubling angle to the VA scandal: that the much touted investigations may be incapable of finding violations that are hiding in plain sight.

“For lack of a better term, you’ve got an organized crime syndicate,” a whistleblower who works in the Texas VA told The Daily Beast. “People up on top are suddenly afraid they may actually be prosecuted and they’re pressuring the little guys down below to cover it all up.”

The case of Dr. Joseph Spann, a recently retired doctor who reported malfeasance in the Texas VA system, where he worked for 17 years, raises the possibility that official investigations may only be hiding the problems they were charged to root out.

In 2011, the VA’s inspector general investigated the Central Texas health-care system in response to complaints it had received. The inspector general found that manipulated appointments were widespread and hid significant delays, but the report doesn’t seem to have led to a single VA official being disciplined or officially held responsible for gaming the system.

via Exclusive: Texas VA Run Like a ‘Crime Syndicate,’ Whistleblower Says – The Daily Beast.

ITEM: 28 May 14. Preliminary report from the IG is highly negative. Delaying medical care is systemic and pervasive in the VA system. The care of patients has been compromised. Still uncertain: if the corruption and misconduct rose to the level of crime. USA Today:

Delaying medical care to veterans and manipulating records to hide those delays is “systemic throughout” the Department of Veterans Affairs health system, the VA’s Office of Inspector General said in a preliminary report Wednesday.

“Our reviews at a growing number of VA medical facilities have thus far provided insight into the current extent of these inappropriate scheduling issues throughout the VA health care system and have confirmed that inappropriate scheduling practices” are widespread, the report said.

Investigators with the Inspector General’s Office also said their probe into charges of delays in health care at a VA hospital in Phoenix shows that the care of patients was compromised.

The probe found that 1,700 veterans who are patients at the Phoenix hospital are not on any official list awaiting appointments, even though they need to see doctors. Some 1,138 veterans in Phoenix had been waiting longer than six months just to get an appointment to see their primary doctors, investigators found.

“These veterans were and continue to be at risk of being forgotten or lost in the (Phoenix hospital’s) convoluted scheduling process. As a result, these veterans may never obtaina requested or required clinical appointment,” the report said.

The Inspector General’s Office said it is working with the Justice Department to determine if crimes occurred in how patients were handled.

The Inspector General’s Office said the problems it is finding are not new. It has issued 18 reports dating to 2005 documenting delays in treating veterans at some of the agency’s 150 hospitals and 820 clinics and detrimental health impact these delays have had on these patients.

The Inspector General appeared to draw a direct link between delays in health care and the bonuses of about $9,000 and salary increases that hospital officials receive as a result of their performance appraisal.

The Washington Times also had a report on the IG preliminary. It raised many of the same issues, but also others:

The report also found real wait times different drastically from what was reported by the Phoenix facility. Of 226 veterans, the data from Phoenix showed the average wait time to be just 24 days for their first primary care appointment. The inspector general, however, found the average wait time was 115 days.

Three top VA officials are expected to testify before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs Wednesday night after failing to appear before the committee last week. If they don’t show, the committee will subpoena them to testify on Friday.

Nice to know they’re taking it seriously over there in Shinsekistan. They also noted that misconduct is now under investigation in 42 facilities.

  • ITEM: 28 May 14. Turns out, the VA hasn’t got the time to treat veterans with service connected disabilities, but what it has been doing since 2011, at a higher priority than the combat disabled, is providing sex-change support for sex-confused vets. Over 2,500 of them last year (that’s the count of tranny vets, not treatments).

The VA has supported counseling, cross-sex hormone therapy, evaluations for sex reassignment surgeries performed outside the department and post-reassignment surgical care since 2011, [Ndidi] Mojay said.

Mojay is one of the VA’s inexhaustible supply of PR dollies and spin doctors. If spin was a service-connected disability, they’d be well placed to treat it.

We guess that answers the musical question, “What has the VA been blowing all their money (budget +175% since 2009, patient load +38%) on lately?” On giving sex change treatments to sexually confused (“gender dysphoric”) veterans, who number over 2,500, at a higher priority than treating service-connected disabled veterans. But that’s just our cismale gendernormative cryptofascism coming out, they tell us.

Stuck on the endless secret-waitlist treadmill? Just tell them you feel like you need to be a pole dancer named Tiffany, and you’ll zip to the head of the line!

  • ITEM: 29 May 14. A troubled vet was put on a delay treadmill in Kansas City, despite the fact that his treatment was court-ordered. Isaac Sims was shot by police Sunday in what appears to be suicide-by-cop.

Iraq War veteran Issac Sims was killed Sunday by Kansas City, Mo., police after a standoff at his family home. Sims suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and been told he could not get care from the local Veterans Administration center for another 30 days.

Sims, 26, had gotten into an argument with his father Sunday and reportedly fired off a gun multiple times inside and outside the home. Police responded to reports of the shooting and subsequently called in the SWAT team. When Sims emerged from the house 5 hours later with a rifle, he was shot dead. Officers stated he pointed the gun at them.

Now, Sims’s own actions compelled the cops to shoot him, so the VA’s delay is a contributing factor, but not a cause, as we see it. YMMV. Still and all, VA’s endless delays are not fair to the veterans, or to the cops, who have to live with having done shot this guy. (If they’re vets, their care will be delayed, too! Welcome to the chain reaction of stress).

If only he wanted a set of female secondary sexual characteristics, they’d have hooked him up, apparently. His bad luck that wasn’t what he needed.

  • ITEM: 30 May 2014 (today): Our best guess is that Shinseki will commit seppuku, job-wise, sometime after 6 PM EDT tonight. It doesn’t help much because he’s simply the bumbling figurehead; all of the people responsible for the maltreatment of vets are job-for-life civil service drones. Personnel is policy, and those particular personnel are burrowed in like ticks on a hound. The Secretary can be fired (and should be), but he’s not the proximate cause of the problem, and his firing does not move us a millimeter closer to a solution.

If he doesn’t go tonight, they’re saving his resignation as a counterweight for news of further abuses.

UPDATE: We were wrong. Shinseki went under the bus first thing this morning. And the President said in a press conference that he (Secretary Shinseki) had already started firing people. Bridget Johnson at PJMedia notes that ~120 legislators including some 38 (mostly election-vulnerable) Democrats had called for the General’s head, while the always anti-military and anti-veteran Socialist Bernie Sanders and key leaders of both parties (Boehner, Reid) still backed him to the last. Shinseki has been replaced, temporarily, by Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson, who may or may not be part of the problem.

ITEM: 30 May 2014. Secretaries come and go, but the staggering incompetence of overpaid, underworked, unaccountable Civil Service drones just putters steadily along. Jeryl Bier notes at Real Clear Politics that VA’s IT boss, Stephen Warren, was boasting about VA’s great electronic scheduling system (which dates to the 1990s).

A report released this week by the inspector general for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) found that “inappropriate scheduling practices are systemic throughout VHA.” But as recently as September 2013, Stephen Warren, the executive in charge for information and technology for the VA, said that he could not “pass up an opportunity to brag about how” VistA, the scheduling software in use for more than two decades by the VA, “plays a role in providing the quality care Veterans receive at VA.”

Warren made the remarks in his keynote address at the 2nd annual summit of the Open Source Electronic Health Record Alliance (OSEHRA).

Warren’s remarks also reveal one of the reasons VA is so poor at health outcomes: of the VA’s quarter-million employees, a bare 70,000 are health care providers (docs and nurses): the rest are clerical overhead. Like Warren.

Pentagon Blowing Billions on One Helicopter — and 20 Spares

When the President steps out of his helicopter on the South Lawn, he’s stepping out of a Nixon- or even LBJ-era helicopter that the Pentagon worries about every day. They would sincerely like to replace it, but, well, they’re the Pentagon, and they can’t buy anything without the whole procurement program turning to feces.

The logical answer, the V-22, isn’t that logical when you realize that only 100-odd have been built so far and some 30 have been written off, including this one that crashed (killing two crewmen) in Morocco on Exercise African Lion in the fall of 2012:

V-22 Down African Lion 2012 Morocco

It’s fine for Marines and our SOF guys, but President ain’t ridin’ that. And that means any President; one doesn’t reach that position by a willingness to risk life and limb any more.

The Pentangle’s last attempt, almost 10 years ago, blew over three billion dollars on European helicopters with a veneer of American badge engineering (and many layers of robustly-paid American middlemen). And they so micromanaged the VH-71 copters that the ones that they’d had built couldn’t even be fobbed off on an ally as airworthy helicopters: Canada took them, but only to part them out. (Bringing the project to airworthy-copter completion would have required handing over another $10 billion to Lockheed Martin… and hoping LockMart had no further cost overruns. What odds?). It did make a pretty artist’s rendering:

VH-71 artists impression

Canadian Forces, by the way, bought the same basic helicopter directly from its manufacturer, cutting out the great greedy gullet of Lockheed and saving billions. (Not that they don’t have fiscal problems with cost overruns by US defense manufacturers, too: they are staggered by the cost of 8 lighter helicopters from Bell, $200 million — Canadian loonies, close enough to par with $USD for our purposes).

The Washington Post sees the whole thing shaping up a second time.

In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, replacing the helicopters — which fly under the call sign “Marine One” when the president is aboard — became a priority for the Pentagon. In 2005, a team led by Lockheed Martin won the contract, beating out Sikorsky, which built the helicopters currently used in the Marine One program.

But soon it became a case “study in how not to build a helicopter, analysts say. The design became so overloaded with new requirements — to be able to hover longer and at high altitudes, travel great distances without refueling, and defend against missile attacks — it essentially became an impossible task.

“Too many people had a seat at the table,” said Richard Aboulafia, an aviation analyst at the Fairfax-based Teal Group. “Everyone was chiming in for good measure. . . . Basically they were building something to survive a nuclear war. Literally.”

In 2009, the Pentagon killed the program and eventually sold the helicopters that were in production to Canada for spare parts.

Since then, the Navy has dramatically scaled back the ambitions for the aircraft, officials said, and will use existing, proven technologies instead of trying to build new ones specifically for the helicopter.

via Navy to award contract for Marine One helicopter despite previous failure – The Washington Post.

The Post quotes professional getting-quoted guy Aboulafia, and also someone from the Project On Government Oversight, a group that reflexively opposes all defense procurements because of its “let the Air Force hold a bake sale” and “better Red than dead!” values. But they have a point: this project is not going to be contained in its original budget projection, and its original projections are, frankly, insane.

The new proposal is based on the Sikorsky S-92, but it’s radically different from the production -92 (why?) and it’s being managed by that great steward of the public fisc, Lockheed Martin. (Wait! Didn’t they just… well, yeah).

The first helicopters will cost $3.2 billion, over $1 billion each, and the Pentagon imagines that by “mass producing” 21 helicopters, the unit cost will drop. Some of those 21 are probably “sacrificial tail numbers” that are intended to be cast aside in future phony budget-cutting, but there’s no need for such a big fleet of VIP aircraft: one aircraft is needed for a decoy, two more for operational and maintenance floats, and one or two for training of air and ground crews, since the Pentagon insists on buying a custom, bespoke helicopter for this purpose alone (previous Presidential helicopters have been ordinary military models with upgraded interiors and communications). And some of them are probably intended to push the VIP helicopter perk further down the ranks of the Washington political class.

burning-wasting-moneyThe Post tried to pin down Captain Dean Peters, USN, the guy leading this squanderathon, on what the whole project would cost. Peters was shifty and evasive and they got nothing out of him, which implies that Peters is either trying to hide the staggering project cost, or, more likely, has no earthly idea where the escalating price will finally stop. Neither possibility reassures.

And he’s the guy supposedly managing the project. If a PM can’t price his project, he’s at the point of epic fail already. No business would tolerate this, but DOD works no other way.

Peters was probably perfectly competent as a boat driver or air wing officer, and it’s probably not his personal fault that his project is failing. It’s deeply rooted in the DOD’s byzantine and corrupt acquisition culture, which has every incentive to gold-plate every contract, because neither the DOD acquirer, in this case the Navy, nor the manufacturer, in this case a consortium of Sikorsky and the previous project mismanager, Lockheed Martin, bear any cost risk in the program. It’s all laid off on the taxpayers.

After he’s bungled this project to failure, or completion at a shadow of the foreseen capability and a vast overshadow of the foreseen cost, Peters will step into a rich sinecure at one of the DOD prime contractors, if takes the usual procurement officer “retirement” route. Indeed, it will almost cerntainly be one he’s just been signing padded checks to. (Where’s Glenn Reynolds’s Revolving-Door Surtax (original proposal here) when you need it?)

There is no rational reason for a helicopter to cost a billion dollars. Indeed, there’s no rational reason for, and many strong arguments against, a Presidential helicopter that is its own custom, bespoke airframe not used on other military missions. What’s wrong with our current rotorcraft in the VIP role? Here’s what Peters’s office would tell you:

  • H-60: too small. President has to duck under the rotors, which is unseemly. And besides, it’s an Army, not Marine helicopter.
  • H-47: too big, and besides, it’s an Army, not Marine helicopter.
  • H-53: too big, even though the Navy and Marines fly lots of them. Plus, it’s not new.
  • H-65: too small, and only flown by the Coast Guard.
  • V-22: too small, and too dangerous for a President.

Most likely outcome of this Goldilocks helicopter quest: about the same as the VH-71 fiasco. We buy a handful of these specialty helicopters, for a unit cost higher than Air Force 1, which is where Peters’s project presently points. And the DOD struggles for a few years to maintain them with no spares commonality with any DOD helicopter fleet, before giving up. But a lot of DOD contractors will cash in, and that is, ultimately, what the hokey-pokey of DOD procurement is all about.

Hat tip, Ralph Benko at Forbes via Glenn Reynolds.

Is this Bubba the Gunsmith’s Luger?

Is this a case of Bubba the Gunsmith devaluing a collector gun?

Nickel Luger

The ad says: LUGER, NUMBER 42, 9MM, DRESS/PARADE NICKEL, MATCHING #. Parts of that are true, and parts are not. Here’s the other side, and then we’ll comment a bit:

Nickel Luger 2

The true parts: It is a Luger; since it’s clearly a P.08, it’s almost certainly 9mm; it’s definitely nickel-plated; and it appears to be matching, serial number 7190.

The uncertain part: Code 42. We’ll take their word for it, but it also makes sense for a 1940 production Luger to be coded 42 (Mauser-Werke).

The false part: “Dress/Parade.” The Wehrmacht did have some dress bayonets that were plated, but (unlike US veterans organizations) they never inflicted that treatment on their firearms. Also, why would there be a “dress” version of a pistol that was carried in a holster? It makes as much sense as

Furthermore, if you look closely at the firearm, you can see that the finish is somewhat beat up with scratches and abrasions, but also is letting some rust come up:

Nickel Luger 3

It sure looks to us like plating overlaid over holster wear (on the side plate and takedown latch, for example) and possibly even pitting (on the slide under the serial number, but also along the barrel, if you look at the left-side picture blown up). Here’s another fishy-looking angle on the gun:

Nickel Luger 4

No German plated this gun, unless it was after he emigrated to the US and set himself up as a gunsmith. It looks like it might have been polished and plated perhaps to cover up a bad finish, extensive holster wear, or surface rust. Whoever did it, though, wasn’t Bubba, because the plating is generally well done and has held together for quite a long time. Crap plating is slapped on over the extant bluing, and flakes off in a couple of decades; quality plating is done in three layers, usually on bare metal, and is how the factories did it (albeit not the Mauser-Werke with military P.08s).

It’s also perhaps halved the value of the pistol, now.

So who did it? It was almost certainly done in the period from 1945-70 or thereabouts. Lugers were common pistols in regular commerce (TV shows and movies of that era often armed bad guys with Lugers and P.38s, even if the bad guys were, say, Russian). And nickel plating was the third most common gun finish at the time (after rust bluing and Parkerizing).

But in 1960, a Luger wasn’t anything special. It was just another used gun. It had a little bit of war-trophy cachet — we remember a guy who carried one as a young SF troop in Vietnam, because Luger, which you either get or you don’t. And, decades before stainless-steel firearms, the first of which stuttered haltingly into the market in the mid-70s, nickel was enormously more popular than it is now: the whole Smith and Colt catalogs, basically, could be had in blue or nickel, and nickel had a durability and cleaning edge.

A Luger was just another used gun. It’s hard for 21st century collectors to get their skulls around this idea, especially if they came late to the 20th (and soon, we will have a generation of collectors for whom the 20th century might as well be the 16th in terms of personal experience).

So some guy with a beater Luger took it to a smith he knew, or some Smith bought an el-cheapo, cosmetically-challenged Luger, and plated it up. And the new shiny Luger went on the shelf — maybe it had the bullshit “Dress/Parade” story already attached, a story impossible to check in those days where there was not only no Intertubes but also no 18-pound three-volume comprehensive Luger collector books — and it sold for more money than it would have done in its “original” condition, because better original condition Lugers were in every gun shop in the land. It was just another gun.

The Luger in these pictures, on a Florida gun site, has already sold. The asking price was $1,150, and maybe the guy got it, which is a lot less than the gun might have drawn in original worn condition.

But there is a silver lining in all this. We have all seen how collectors treat their most prized arms: spotless cleanliness, an OCD level of attention to temperature and humidity, handle with cotton gloves. There’s an awful lot of cherry-condition Lugers that will never fire another shot, and this P.08 isn’t one of them. Its buyer can shoot it to his heart’s content, and get the peculiar delight that comes from watching a toggle action eject spinning brass cases from behind the gun. Lugers are fun to shoot. Now, it’s a free country, and if you want to take rare Lugers and lock them up in a dark room, you’re welcome to do so. Knock yourself out. Meanwhile, we will buy the plated, reblued, numbers-mismatching or otherwise “polluted” guns that a collector disdains: and shoot the living daylights out of ‘em.

After all, it’s a free country.

Yes, DOD’s still wasting money on “green fuel” stunts

burning-wasting-moneyThis GAO report is flush with True Belief in the bright sunlit uplands of alternative fuels. Someday, they might even be economical!

Maybe. If your array of possible values for “someday” extends on out into geological time. Then they might be economical.

Right now, not so much. Highly hyped algae-based fuel set DOD back $150 a gallon recently. By 2020 that process might have advanced to the point where it only needs a subsidy of $2.86 a gallon, over and above the price of ordinary jet fuel (currently, in DOD- or airline-level bulk, $2.88). Most of the things that DOD burns jet or diesel fuel in (DOD uses the same fuel in both, actually) were built without regard to fuel economy and truly excel at turning hydrocarbons into noise and air pollution.

Tank and jet buyers may be disappointed to hear it, but there’s no Plug-In M-1A2 or F-15E Hybrid in the showroom.

The Navy’s Great Green Fleet publicity stunt in 2012 used about 100,000 gallons of $26/gallon fuel produced with the old Fischer-Tropf process as used by the Germans in WWII and Souith Africa under embargo, and the Navy’s goal of making that their standard fuel by 2016 caused a rebellion in Congress, banning DOD or any agency from doing ny more than testing these ultra-expensive, boutique fuels.

For the alternative HEFA process, the costs of feedstocks alone — before the first processing transformation is applied to them, and indeed, before they are delivered to the refining site — exceed the current cost of the fossil fuel equivalent.

The fuels are all made by crony-capitalist outfits that have turned rentseeking, and access to political movers and shakers, into cold cash. For example, an Air Force program that paid $59/gallon to a Colorado biofuels company, turns out to look and smell like a payoff to political donor Vinod Khosla, rewarding him for his “correct” political contributions.

But there’s more at work here than simple greed (even though that’s definitely at work here). One thing that drives the DOD squanderagon’s policy on this is Global Warming true belief — the GAO report mentions “greenhouse gas” 25 times.

Another cost driver is a simple lack of unity of command. The DOD is in charge, but so is the FAA, EPA, DOT, DOW, USDA, the Energy Information Administration and even NASA and the Treasury Department. It is probably not possible for even the GAO, Congress’s auditing arm, to make a true accounting of the dimensions of government “green fuel” subsidies.

Hat tip, Lachlan Markay at the Free Beacon.