Category Archives: Consumer Alert!

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.

ANTIQUES & COLLECTIBLES, VINTAGE BEER & LIQUOR ADVERTISING, MILITARIA, JEWELRY, DEPT 56, BOXLOTS & MORE

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.

Stag Arms Introduces 9mm Carbines

A few days ago, Stag introduced a series of 9mm carbines that have some similarities to the Colt workhorse of DOE and police fame, and have a few new features. The Model 9 is available in right or left-handed, and in Tactical or (we guess, to steal from David Ogilvy, “diffident about tactical”) regular trim. This is a regular, RH-oriented Stag Model 9:

Stag Model 9

That’s the factory photo. It does embiggen with a click. The Stag 9 upper is much like the Colt’s, with no ejector port door and a polymer ejected-case bumper, as is the blowback, non-locking bolt/carrier unit. Unlike Colt, which uses an insert in an ordinary AR lower, the Stag has a dedicated lower, that’s broached (or more likely, wire-EDM’d) only for the 9mm mag, same mag as Colt’s. Here’s the Tactical version in left hand, with the mag in:

Stag Model 9TL

The rounded rectangular protrusion on the upper forging that, on a locked-bolt rifle, gives the cam pin a place to rest, serves no purpose on the 9mm AR, but it’s there because the gun is only economical because the same forging is used for the 9mm upper, and the one for other, more usual AR calibers.

As you can see, “tactical” gets you a free-floating handguard and pop-up sights. Both handguards take Diamondhead rails; the non-”tactical” version has a conventional “gas block” although it taps no gas from the non-ported barrel, and it comes without sights (or, in marketing-speak, “optics ready.”

On the principle than only a fool invents a new feed system when he doesn’t have to, the Colt mag is based on the venerable Uzi mag, and is available in 20- and 32-round lengths (as opposed to the Uzi’s 25 and 32). Of course, no one has tried Uzi mags in the introduced-last-week Stag 9mm yet, but people have had mixed, mostly bad, luck with Uzi mags in Colts, and people have had all kinds of bad luck with just about everything in non-Colt 9mm ARs — making a 9mm AR that runs is harder than it looks. Making a 9mm that runs on a wide range of ammo is really hard, because the recoil impulse varies so widely, and any blowback system is optimized for a specific recoil impulse. That was one advantage of HK’s old MP5 and its roller-locking system. Even though the MP5 could be fussy about hollow points, it didn’t sweat bullet weight and powder charge changes too much.

A 9mm AR is always a bit homely, if not deformed, looking, but they shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. The pistol caliber submachine gun or carbine has always had a niche, and that niche is, mostly, indoors. So the optimum 9mm AR (assuming, ceteris paribus, the thing works) might actually be a small SMG or SBR, much like the special Colt Model 633 that was used by DOE. The 633 had a controllable rate of fire by using a special hydraulic buffer, different from that in other Colt 9mms. Stag’s press release has no details of their 9mm buffer, except that it is different from that in their other rifles. At the reasonable, sub-$1k list of the basic 9mm, a hydraulic buffer is unlikely.

 

The 9mm SMG had a run in the conventional military from 1918 to circa 1965-70, when assault rifles replaced most of them. It had a second lease on life in the 70s and 80s as a special operations CQB weapon. It was replaced by the 5.56mm carbine in military special operations for specific reasons, having to do with the 9mm’s range envelope. There have always been problems transitioning from the 9mm’s close-combat sweet spot to engage targets further out. A specific combat operation in Grenada in 1982 where American SOF found themselves outranged by meatheads with assault rifles was, if not the cause, the catalyst for the change.

But the police don’t have that reason to move to the 5.56 and they’re doing it, as far as we can tell, both because reliable 5.56 carbines are far easier to come by, and, perhaps, because of a certain “operator” cachet. They may be making an error. A 115 grain 9mm JHP will still overpenetrate in an indoor setting, but not like an M855A1 round will, and the 9mm (with modern defensive ammo) will do a decent job of putting an armed and hostile Wealth Redistribution Engineer down. It’s a tough call for the cops, though, because their rifle-engagement callouts are so rare, you can’t really say what the “usual” one is like. You can make some statistical inferences, but every new call is a roll of the dice, and it may turn out the capability needed is the barrier-blind penetration that a 9mm leaves on the table.

Having a 9 with the same manual of arms of the 5.56 is a plus. The Stag and Colt keep most of the key muscle memory points the same as on the rifle-cartridge AR. Even the very different, non-AR SIG MPX sought this same positive training transfer by keeping key fingerings (trigger, safety, mag release) identical to the AR.

If the Stag runs reliably, and there’s no reason to expect it not to, it gives 9mm carbine users another option besides trying to wring another year out of vintage and weary MP5s, going to the SIG MPX, going Colt or ditching the pistol round for 5.56. And on stuff like this, it’s good to have choices.

The technical stuff rom the Press Release:

Both the Model 9 & 9T series boast a 1/10 twist 16” heavy barrel, blowback action, a 6-position adjustable buttstock, and as always they are available in right & left hand configurations. The safety, charging handle, and magazine release function the same as any AR-15. However we have designed the actions of the rifles from the ground up. The rifles accept standard Colt style 9mm AR magazines which insert into the integrated magazine well in the lower receiver. The integrated magazine well won’t come loose or have feeding issues accompanied with drop in magazine blocks. Differences from a standard AR-15 can also be found in the lower receiver with a specially designed hammer, magazine catch, and buffer. In the Upper half, the bolt and carrier are one piece with a modified ejection port cover and brass deflector.

The Model 9 and 9T have different configurations. The Model 9 has a railed gas block and drop in Diamondhead VRS-T modular handguard with no sights. The Model 9T is the tactical version with a free floating 13.5” Diamondhead VRS-T modular handguard and aluminum Diamondhead flip up sights for faster target acquisitions. Both rifles will accept the Diamondhead rail sections for extreme customization.

For more information, and for the specs on each model, Read The Whole Thing™.

Be the Guy who Kicked Jesse Ventura’s Ass

Pred suit3No, not Chris Kyle. The other guy. Dude in Kirkwall, Scotland is selling a complete Predator suit for £4,800. We know some of you retired frogs working PSD have the money for the ultimate party suit.

If you don’t want to go to SEAL conventions and see Jesse leave by the back door, you could always stuff and mount it, in between your grizzly and lion mounts. From the ad:

Here I have an original Pete Mander AVP Predator suit, I am selling this as I really need the money for moving house.

The suit was fully custom made by Pete Mander and is unbelievably realistic, the suit is perfect down to the last detail.

The suit consists of (from the head down) :-

1- A set of latex and rubber dreadlocks.

2- Very real looking predator face mask.

3- The Scar & Celtic Biomasks.

4- Adjustable shoulder cannon.

5- 2x shoulder armour.

Pred suit4The ad, on the British sales website Gumtree, goes on and on in the sort of detail you’d expect from some cat in Scotland whose proudest possession is an $8,000 Predator costume. (What odds he works in the software industry?)

Technically, this is the later Predator from the movie AVP: Alien vs. Predator, but it’s definitely close enough for Hollywood. It’s got to be close enough to ruin Ventura’s day.

And you could probably make the money back PDQ in free drinks from frogmen.

When is a Used Scope Worth $5k?

With a couple hours left to go, this scope is over $4,800 at the CMP Auction site. It’s worth a lot because it’s a rarity, of no small historical significance.

USMC Sniper scope2

Anybody can stamp “USMC Sniper” on a scope, but when Unertl did it, the scopes went to the Marine Corps scout-sniper program — he never sold one to the civilian world. So everybody who’s a fan of Marine snipers, whether they’re real ones like Carlos Hathcock or the fictional kind like Bob Lee Swagger, wants one of these scopes.

Many years ago they were rebuilt by US Optics, and stored. And they wound up at CMP. They have a mil-dot reticle.

USMC Sniper scope3

You’re on your own for a mount… but if you need this you can solve that little problem.

USMC Sniper scope1

CMP Auction here.

We want this so bad we can taste it, but then we’d need to build the whole gun, and we’re not Marines around here… better to let the authentic Marines have it, but we’d sure like to see (and shoot? Pretty please?) the gun when it’s built.

Now, we SF guys need a 1980-vintage M21 with Leatherwood ART II. Sooner or later.

UPDATE

The scope sold for exactly $5,000. CMP doesn’t have another scope auction scheduled at present.

 

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.