Category Archives: Media vs. Military

Land of the Lost… Guns: Afghanistan

So, we saw this at Miguel’s, which led us to Fox News, which led us to the Washington Times, which still didn’t give up the primary source document. We wanted the primary source document because the numbers in the Times’s story didn’t add up.

The essential claims in these media versions of the story are:

  1. The Afghans have lost or sold off tens of thousands of the guns we gave them; and,
  2. The databases are poisoned with many duplicates; and,
  3. Most or many of the US-provided weapons were never entered in the database; therefore:
  4. Accountability for weapons in the Afghan National Security Forces (ANA/ANP) is nonexistent.

Here are the numbers as we pulled them from the report, and as the media spun ‘em:

The narrative is that the Afghan National Army has lost tens if not hundreds of thousands of small arms, and that as a result We Are Doomed. It took some doing (anyone who thinks Obamacare’s website was uniquely mishandled has spent no time among the web gardens of the .gov or .mil) but we did unearth the document.

Two Databases Stood Back-to-Back, Refusing to Say a Word…

The problem is at once more complex, more nuanced, and more interesting than that. And for gloom and doom fans, we’re probably still doomed. The bottom line is that the US’s incredibly complex and inefficient inventory systems, which famously do not talk to one another, also don’t mesh with the inventory system we provided to Afghanistan. Three completely different (and fundamentally incompatible) IT systems track US-provided small arms in OEF. Those systems include:

  • SCIP, the Security Cooperation Information Portal, used in the USA by logisticians supplying materiel to American allies worldwide.
  • OVERLORD, the Operational Verification of Reliable Logistics Oversight Database, developed in-country by the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A), the latest of several names for the US training HQ in-country.
  • CoreIMS, the Core Inventory Management System, a US-spec COTS inventory database that has been foisted off on our valiant Afghan allies.

Here’s a graphic from that famous primary source document that the Times and Fox wouldn’t show you, preferring to predigest your informational meal. (Here’s a link to the document: SIGAR 14-84.pdf. We’ve saved a copy in case the link goes  tango uniform). This shows what the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction thinks the process is:

dod_weapons_inventory_process

 

So what we have turns out to be, not vast numbers of guns vanishing as they take each step along the pipeline, but three different and incompatible databases having data that are at odds with one another.

Which database is right? Who knows? Could be any of them. Or none of them! In fact, all three databases could have wide discrepancies, and yet none of them have totals close to what actually exists in inventory.

But it turns out, if you actually read the SIGAR report instead of act like a Media Luminary and Skim Until Shocked, the auditors did that, and as it turns out, some of the numbers are before they deep-dove the data, and some of the numbers don’t represent what they appear to represent. Yes, Afghan inventories are a mess, but they’re not the mess the news stories describe. A spot check of weapons in storage at the ANA Kandahar depot, for example, found the weapons in the crates the database said they’d be in, and traced every weapon back in inventories that matched the weapons on site. A similar exercise at the ANP 22 Bunkers Depot appeared to have similar results, but the inspectors didn’t have time to complete the inspection.  True, other depots and units had more fragmentary records, and the ANA Central Supply Depot’s records were far off from what was inventoried on site. But by Afghan standards, it wasn’t all that bad.

Remember that the idea of weapons inventories was something that Afghans have never done, except when compelled by Soviet or NATO allies. That they don’t do it as well as the US DOD, while using a stack of incompatible and user-hostile systems imposed from outside, shouldn’t shock anybody.

If you’re an old Afghan hand, one fundamental error in this whole process will have jumped out at you from the very beginning: trying to impose a sophisticated Western computer system (actually, multiple systems; a fourth incompatible database called ULTRA, Universal Listing of Transactions for Record Accounting, is under construction for the ANP) on a nation of Iron Age illiterates. Illiteracy was 94% to 97% when we first went into Afghanistan (the Taliban had closed all schools except madrassas). Illiterates make weak computer operators, something that American loggies never considered for a minute before deciding to spin up the Afghans in Microsoft World. Results predictable:

According to CSTC-A officials, efforts to develop the capabilities of ANSF personnel to manage the central depots have been hindered by the lack of basic education or skills among ANSF personnel and frequent turnover of Afghan staff.

Gee, there’s a shocker. We impose US-style personnel turbulence and military bureaucracy on an ally where most of the population is illiterate and borderline innumerate, and as Wilkins Micawber might say, “results, misery.”

The Duplicate Serials Problem: Not Such a Big Deal

Then, there’s the duplicate serial numbers problem , which comes to rise for two reasons:

  1. The procurers, developers and operators of the system did not understand that different weapon makes and models may indeed use the same serial numbers, and different manufacturers may use the same serial numbers for their versions of the same firearm, and so they erred in trying to use serial number by itself as a unique key;
  2. Lack of communication between databases

Even the authors of the report don’t seem to find that their discovery of some duplicate numbers is meaningless. Here’s their table from the report:

sigar_serial_number_dupes

¡Ay, Chihuahua! (Old Afghan phrase). Yes, it’s not just an Afghan thing to have two weapons with the same serial number. Heck, the USA did it:

M1 Rifle Serial 1,608,803: these two receivers were sold by CMP at auction recently.

M1 Rifle Serial 1,628,802: these twin receivers were sold by CMP at auction recently.

Someone who knows weapons can clear these three discrepancies in about two tenths of a second. Like this:

  • DX2383 needs to be reconciled by eyes-on physical inventory, because it’s possible that this represents two different guns, but because an AMD-65 is a variant of AK-47, it’s equally possible that this is one gun described two ways. Several manufacturers made AK variants using serial numbers of this pattern, so only physical inventory can establish whether we’re talking about one gun or two here.
  • 178203 is obviously two different weapons, and a properly constructed database would not confuse an M203 with an M249 of the same serial number.
  • A598 is the very same problem, Russian-designed-weapons style.

As anyone who’s ever accounted for any significant quantity of firearms can tell you, serial numbers are only likely to be unique on a single type (i.e. make/model/caliber) of weapon made for a single customer by a single manufacturer. Now, we’re not sure what other US arms have duped serial numbers like the M1 example above. (We know M16A1 rifles and XM177 “submachine guns” had absolutely unique numbers because manufacturers had independent sN blocks).

But this duplication is spun by SIGAR, in their ignorance of firearms, as a major problem, and it is spun in turn by the media as a Chicken Little sky-is-falling moment. It’s only a problem because the database designers and auditors are ignorant of the limits of serial numbering.

We certainly admit that the SIGAR report does identify some real challenges facing Afghan services on weapons-inventory issues, and it points up the poor visibility into those issues that US service elements, including CSTC-A, have into Afghan inventories. As far as the weaknesses of Afghan inventory controls are concerned, this is news to us in which way? We were pleasantly surprised to see that some Afghan National Police elements are tracking their assigned weapons using Microsoft Excel. This means they have some literate cops, who can even use computers — that’s miles ahead of 2002, let us tell you. But the SIGAR is shocked by this, and by the fact they’re not using some high-dollar, centralized, fiddly data management system instead of Excel.

Crawl, walk, run, people. Trying to drop Afghans into RDBMS management when they not only haven’t got the hang of Excel, but are largely utterly unlettered, is asking for trouble.

One is reminded of Lawrence’s maxim not to do things for the locals, but to let them do it themselves, however imperfectly.

Military Phonies in Politics

Ken Aden -- Special Forces phony, faker, fraud. The lesser of two weevils.

Ken Aden — Special Forces phony, faker, fraud, and 2012 Congressional candidate. The lesser of two weevils.

Today, a friend reminded us of Ken Aden, a 2012 congressional candidate in Arkansas who is a phony “Green Beret.” Aden actually managed to flunk out of SF school so spectacularly — three times, so at least he’s not a quitter — that the Command Sergeant Major of the school distinctly remembered him four years later. It was kind of sad, because Aden served creditably in the Army, he just didn’t succeed in SF, which is hardly a rare thing. What is a relatively rare thing is for a guy who did not succeed to go around claiming he did. Maybe that once was common, but nowadays everybody’s a couple of phone calls or emails away from authenticating just about anybody. Anyway, here’s the post on Aden if you want to pick at that scab. We don’t think he’s running for anything this year; he learned that lesson.

On the other hand, our post about him is so full of typos and grammatical screwups, we have to say, “No, really” about college degrees… sheesh. It was not our finest hour. Anyway, Aden threw in the sponge when his imposture was outed. He’s back in mind today because we have two guys, at least, running on their military records, when the military records haven’t exactly held up to scrutiny.

Ron Dickey, Congressional Candidate in Mississippi: SF Phony

Dickey has claimed to be a “Green Beret”. Here is an example of that claim. You may rest assured that there are many more such examples:

Ron Dickey SF phony

Dickey, whose full name is Flemron Earl Russell Dickey, has already won his contested primary for the Democrat nomination, and will be on the general election ballot 4 November 14. Is he really a Green Beret? Here are his real military assignments.

Ron Dickey real records

Dickey served honorably, completing Basic and Advanced Individual Training and assignments in Korea and at Fort Bragg. As you see, is only AIT was as a 94B, Food Service Specialist. In plain English, a cook. His SF claim hangs on this flimsy peg: he was assigned to HHC, 3rd Special Forces Group, and worked in the Group’s mess hall, where he prepared and served food for real Green Berets on a daily basis.

What the hell? Ron could claim he was a veteran, no problem. He could even say he was a support guy who worked for Special Forces, and we wouldn’t quibble. But normally, even cooks in an SFG’s HHC (or back in the day, support battalion or service company) are required to be jump-qualified, and Ron’s record shows no attendance at jump school, nor award of the parachutist badge. (Maybe it’s routine for some cooks at Bragg to be legs? All we know is that our cooks at 10th Group at Devens, and later in the Reserve and Guard SF units, were Airborne qualified).

Unfortunately, Ron’s false claims do not end there. He also claims to be a Desert Storm Veteran. He has made these claims broadly and in detail, and they are not supported by his records at all. Elements of 3rd Group did attend that party, but he did not.

Even before these false claims were exposed, Ron Dickey had an uphill fight against incumbent Alan Nunnelee, a Republican who retained his seat with 60% of the vote in 2012. The Cook Partisan Voting Index rates the district R+16 in 2014; many Mississippi Democrats are gerrymandered into another district (the 2nd).

FMI: Guardian of Valor on Ron Dickey. This Ain’t Hell on Ron Dickey.  Stolen Valor Offenders Exposed on Ron Dickey. (They have scores of screencaps of his claims; GoV has them well-organized).

Senator “Dishonest John” Walsh: Thesis Thief, and Ethics Violator

Face of a Thesis Thief

Face of a Thesis Thief: Dishonest John Walsh.

While Ron Dickey’s phonyhood has mostly been an under-the-radar phenomenon, John Walsh’s problems have exploded into the national media with a story in the New York Times. Walsh is an appointed Senator; after 30 years as a part-time officer in the Montana National Guard and full-time Guard “technician,” he ran for Lieutenant Governor after retiring. When the Governor, Bryan Schweitzer, had a chance to name a Senator, after the President named incumbent Max Baucus to an ambassadorship, he thought the best chance of keeping the seat in Democrat hands in conservative Montana was to name someone with an unquestionable military background.

Unfortunately for him and his party, he thought Dishonest John was that guy.

The current tornado of news is animated by the discovery that almost all the substance of Walsh’s 2007 War College thesis was plagiarized. From the initial story at the New York Times:

But one of the highest-profile credentials of Mr. Walsh’s 33-year military career appears to have been improperly attained. An examination of the final paper required for Mr. Walsh’s master’s degree from the United States Army War College indicates the senator appropriated at least a quarter of his thesis on American Middle East policy from other authors’ works, with no attribution.

Mr. Walsh completed the paper, what the War College calls a “strategy research project,” to earn his degree in 2007, when he was 46. The sources of the material he presents as his own include academic papers, policy journal essays and books that are almost all available online.

Most strikingly, each of the six recommendations Mr. Walsh laid out at the conclusion of his 14-page paper, titled “The Case for Democracy as a Long Term National Strategy,” is taken nearly word-for-word without attribution from a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace document on the same topic.

The Washington Post adds some specifics on Walsh’s thesis theft:

The first page borrows heavily from a 2003 Foreign Affairs piece written by Thomas Carothers, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and a 2009 book by Natan Sharansky with Ron Dermer called “The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror.”

All six of the recommendations that Walsh lists at the end of his paper are taken nearly word-for-word without attribution from a Carnegie paper written by Carothers and three other scholars at the institute.

One section of the paper is nearly identical to about 600 words from a 1998 paper by Sean Lynn-Jones, a scholar at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, a research institute at Harvard.

Walsh is ducking responsibility for the plagiarism, claiming that it was PTSD from his service as a safe-as-houses battalion commander in Iraq that forced him to plagiarize many sources, essentially adding up to the whole damned paper.

The War College has started an enquiry, according to a follow-up in the Times:

“It’s clear there is indeed strong reason to believe this is plagiarism,” said the War College’s provost, Lance Betros, a retired brigadier general. “We are initiating academic review procedures.”

Dr. Betros said he made the decision after he and another member of the War College’s staff read Mr. Walsh’s 14-page paper and used an online plagiarism detection program to review the document.

The notification letter to Mr. Walsh indicates that an academic review board consisting of War College faculty members will meet no earlier than Aug. 15. Any student or graduate facing such questions is given 10 days after receiving notification to decide whether to appear in person or provide information before the board convenes.

Dr Betros told that Times that six War College graduates have had their degrees yanked for plagiarism since 1990 (and two more for other misconduct). It seems probable that as soon as two weeks from now, Walsh will be the ninth disgraced grad.

Montana’s other Senator, Jon Tester, who is not a veteran, defended Walsh, and indicated that military ideals of integrity were passé and immaterial. After all, Tester explained, “there’s no malice in this.” So, he cheated on a course, so what? Likewise, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee came out swinging for Walsh. “John Walsh is a decorated war hero, and it’s disgusting” that people would call him on something like plagiarism, spokesman Justin Barasky, who is not a veteran, exploded, before going nuclear on Walsh’s election opponent, blaming him for the “smear” of Walsh that came about when the New York Times, a well-known tool of small-state Republican politicians, exposed Walsh’s plagiarism. 

But the plagiarism isn’t the biggest problem in Walsh’s military history, although it speaks resoundingly of his integrity. Because his political career is nugatory — the 2012 Lt. Governorship was his first office — he has cast his campaign largely in light of his military service — a service in which he not only, as has now been exposed, cheated to get ahead, but couldn’t stay there once he did.

For example, Dishonest John represents himself as a brigadier general in campaign ads, but while he wore the star on state orders, he never received Federal recognition for the promotion because of allegations of corruption in office, allegations that were proven credible. (Had he been cleared, he would have been federally recognized as a two-star Major General; instead, he had to retire as a Colonel). An Army IG investigation substantiated that Walsh had violated the DOD Joint Ethics Regulation; pressured subordinates to join and donate to a political lobbying organization he sought a position with; misused “his official title, position, and official photograph;” “improperly used his government position for private gain;” and misused Federal resources including computer systems and personnel.

The IG investigation came about because of a complaint from one of the subordinates Walsh targeted for pressure.

There’s also a question of how Walsh’s branch morphed so many times, from Armor at commissioning, to Ordnance, suddenly to Infantry prior to his deployment to Iraq — but that’s rather typical for a “political” Guard officer who is in favor in the state capital, as Walsh has been with Governor Bryan Schweitzer.

UPDATE

The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler, a committed Democrat who could be expected to do what he could to protect Walsh, instead savaged Dishonest John’s “fact sheet” which included, among other things, a fabricated claim that he had “survived hundreds of IED explosions”:

Walsh survived hundreds of IED explosions while in a Humvee, he was targeted – by name – by Al Qaida in Iraq, and his unit endured hundreds of rocket attacks.

His unit might have, but he didn’t. In a separate story, the Post’s Aaron Blake, another typical Postie who wishes Democrats well, lit into the “fact sheet”‘s dishonest combat claims.

If surviving “hundreds of IED explosions” sounds unbelievable, that’s because it didn’t happen. Walsh’s campaign followed up with a correction (which they call a clarification), noting that he personally didn’t survive all those IED attacks.

“He survived an attack in October 2005, while his unit endured hundreds of both IED and rocket attacks throughout the deployment,” a Walsh spokeswoman said.

That’s a pretty glaring factual error, especially for a “fact sheet.”

Dishonest John has also tried to explain away his serial and pervasive plagiarism with a PTSD/TBI dodge, but if he’d been blow’d up enough to have a TBI, his records would show the Purple Heart medal, and they don’t; and, as Blake notes, he never mentioned PTSD until he was on the ropes for plagiarism.

Campaign spokeswoman Lauren Passalacqua “scolded the press” and insisted that Walsh’s Xerox-strength wholesale copying was a single “unintentional mistake.” Kessler gives Walsh a well-deserved Four Pinnochios here.

quatro_pinnochios

 

In this case, the media has actually done the military’s work by unearthing and exposing an unethical officer. No doubt another investigation or three will take place, but any way you look at it, we all owe Kessler, Blake and especially the New York Times’s Jonathan Martin a cold one for shining a light on one of the hidden Courtney Massengales.

Dunning-Kruger Media Effect, and “RIP Ammo” hype

OK, there are rounds that can produce guaranteed death. They just don't fit in pistols.

OK, there are rounds that can produce guaranteed death. They just don’t fit in pistols.

Blue Nation Review is a newish website, dedicated to the proposition that the liberal message (including enthusiasm for gun bans, a frequent theme) has no way of reaching a misinformed public. And apart from ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, the Times, the Post, and all the journalistic farm teams populated by eager and callow youths aspiring to those major leagues, they have a point. It came to our attention because they’re spending enormously on ads with Taboola, and the ads kept appearing on major media websites.

But the essence of Dunning-Kruger, as stated in the brilliant paper “Unskilled and Unaware of It,” is a near-Rumsfeldian tautology: “You don’t know what you don’t know.” In the case of BNR, they don’t know a damned thing about firearms or ammunition. So, after listing a bunch of nonfatal accidents from the twitter feed of gun-ban activist David Waldman, and seeing some assclown’s promo video, they be terrorized (warning, site’s privacy-invasive wrt your location):

But if one Georgia company is successful, accidental shootings that injure people may become a thing of the past. That’s because if people start using their bullets, pretty much every person who gets shot will die.

G2 Research’s “Radically Invasive Projectile” (RIP, get it? — because shooting people to death is hilarious) is a copper bullet that explodes when it hits a target (i.e., a human being) sending pieces screaming through vital organs and clearing a path for the bullet’s core to travel deeper through a person.

via New Bullets Mean Certain Death – Blue Nation Review Blue Nation Review.

Except, they’re hyperventilating over hype. As we wrote six months ago, “The claims were so over-the-top, we dismissed the round as snake oil.  But we weren’t going to debunk the claims. Fortunately, someone else did.”

Our conclusions then bear repeating:

Look, there’s no magic ammunition: nothing you can chamber in a barrel is going to do to a bad guy what you’d like to do to him (unless your barrel is 155mm and tows behind an LMTV, which limits your concealment options). Ammo vendors have been making big claims about ammo forever, and in all that time, guys (good and bad) have been surviving hits of “killer” ammo — we personally met two guys who took 12.7 x 108mm rounds and survived, and a friend took a 5.56 point blank through his brain housing group, and he’s still with us. And in all that time, guys (good and bad) have been taking the “golden BB” from a .22 LR or an even-more-anemic .25ACP and they’re now singing in the Choir Invisible.

It was probably predictable that the marketing hot air generated by the RIP ammunition would wind up being used by those who would leave us, disarmed, at the mercy of their fellow liberals, the violent criminals. (We’re not saying the authors of BNR are criminals, we’re saying that they and the criminals share a position that’s soft on crime and hard on self-defense, and we give them the benefit of belief that their motivations and the criminals’ for arriving at the same position are different).

In all of the nonfatal cases the editors of BNR reference, we can assure them that RIP ammo would not be significantly more damaging than common self-defense JHP ammo or even the 19th-Century ball ammo required by military conventions. Indeed, the lower penetration of the RIP fragments and reduced mass (and therefore penetration) of the central penetrator make things easier on the ER docs and surgeons, although it will doubtless be a hassle chasing down all the little copper fragments.

More of our February wisdom:

You can only be sure a threat is negated if the guy is killed, in our opinion. (You can be pretty sure if his condition is, “not dead… yet.” And the only way to put the guy in that state for sure is with hits in the human’s X-ring, the central nervous system. You do your part, and even FMJ will punch the guy’s ticket for him.

And, while we may not agree with the authors of BNR or with the extreme Waldman on much of  anything else, we can find common ground in contempt for most of the people having negligent discharges. Honestly, folks, tighten up your shot group in that area, because you’re giving way too much glee to people who do not have your best interests in mind.

But then, we don’t think there’s a big intersection between the set of readers of this blog, and people committing some of those egregious ND’s. How do you reach people who already know it all? Because those are the guys having the accidents.

In the meantime, most of what the general media, old and new, writes about firearms and ammunition is purest tosh. Case in point.

Why Johnny Can’t Journalize

displomaMost journalists are no-good bums, so it’s hard to suppress one’s rejoicing at any misfortune that befalls them. They’re activists with bylines, with a narrow set of life experiences and a blinkered worldview that makes their ever-front-and-center opinions especially worthless. Unaware of that, in a textbook case of Dunning-Kruger Effect gone high-order, they are confident in their knowledge, expertise, and general superiority.

Thus our delight in their discomfiture. Pure Schadenfreude. 

One fundamental problem is that they go to journalism schools to “change the world,” and the J-schools teach them storytelling, not reporting. So the narrative is always primary with them, driving factual considerations to the 18th graf of the story, if not clean off the page.

Increasingly, though, they stink at the storytelling too, and newspapers that once prided themselves on observing the fundamental mechanics of good, clear, readable English are swollen with errors, typos, syntactic crimes and misdemeanors, and other trespasses. Everywhere are signs that the spellcheck crutch has replaced the ability to write among the hothouse flowers transplanted from the J-school nursery.

This diploma may illustrate why: it says it was conveyed by Northwestern U to a graduate of the “Medill School of Journalism, Media, and Itegrated Marketing Communications.” The Romenesko Report, a trade publication for the members of the state-controlled media in the USA, notes that the regular diplomas had the name right: only the honors grads got “Itegrated.”

Hell of a way to start your career as a barista, kid.

When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guy wires

Amanda Ezra selfie, while she still had a head. Dead of easy access to handguns and drunk driving, but mostly drunk driving.

Amanda Ezra selfie, while she still had a head. Dead of easy access to handguns and drunk driving, but mostly drunk driving.

For all the sturm und drang over the hazards of having a gun around your family, the evidence of daily life never ceases to prove the real hazard is having drunk, stupid, or reckless people around your family. And in this case Amanda Ezra lost her head (literally) to a guy wire, because Kyle Papa was drunk, stupid and reckless.

Investigators soon learned that Ezra, Early, Niles, Bowers and Papa had been at a party when they left in the minivan owned by Ezra.

Niles was in the front passenger seat with Ezra on his lap, while Papa was driving.

Police say the five left the party and headed down Chestnut when Papa realized he had turned the wrong way when he reached the cul-de-sac.

Papa drove quickly around the cul-de-sac, according to court documents, and over shot the curve, driving into the grass.

At the time, Ezra was leaning her head out the window to vomit, according to investigators. When Papa drove the vehicle in the grass, he drove between a utility pole and guide wire.

Ezra struck the guide wire, which caused her head to jerk back and also strike the side of the van.

via Man charged in death of Mishawaka woman after freak accident in Osceola | Local – Home.

Kyle T. Papa mugshot. Stupid is as Kyle does, apparently.

Kyle T. Papa mugshot. Stupid is as Kyle does, apparently.

“Stupid is as stupid does.” Nothing you can fix with legislation, however well-crafted or positively intended.

Of course, the ol’ Judgment Juice™ was a contributing factor in Kyle Papa’s decision to drive like a bozo, and Amanda Ezra’s decision to puke out a window, to the permanent detriment of her head-neck interface.

Giving another drunk the keys to your car is not “defensive driving.” It’s more like begging for doom. Stupid is… the thing that inevitably lights the fuze of its own undoing.

A political poll of Afghan and Iraq vets

Has some surprising results, which we’ll try to explain.

Just 32 percent of military veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan approve of the job Barack Obama is doing as president, according to a new poll from the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation. In a related question, only 42 percent of those surveyed said they believe Obama is a “good commander-in-chief of the military.” Forty eight percent said he is not.

Wait, 32 percent think he’s doing a good job? We wonder how they checked to see that their respondents were actual vets and not homeless guys raving about Agent Orange. Because, really, where did they find these folks? Our guess is deep in the rear echelons of service support. There are so few Obama supporters in SF (active or retired) that everbody in the community knows their names. (Nobody in SF has any problem taking an unpopular or contrarian position, and nobody has a problem with a teammate taking such a position. The handful of liberals we served with were always willing to argue their side and defend its positions in a principled manner — probably why none of them wound up in the media industry). In our experience, the combat arms tend to be more conservative (on national power and military subjects) than the military as a whole. Service support arms are more reflective of national demographics.

Veterans were asked a similar question about former President George W. Bush. Sixty-five percent said they felt he was a good commander-in-chief, while 28 percent responded he was not.

Hah. He had his pros and cons like any other politician, but his dedication to “his” wounded Americans since his retirement has been a hell of a thing to see. Of course, if you don’t hang out where vets hang out, you don’t see it, because it’s not a media stunt thing.

The expansive collection of post-war polling asked current and former service members for their opinions on a series of political issues, as well as personal and cultural ones. Forty-seven percent consider themselves independents; 27 percent identified as Republicans, and just 17 percent said they were Democrats.

That sounds about right. Most vets I know are irritated with both parties’ Beltway potentates right now.

Only 44 percent of veterans believe that the war in Iraq “was worth fighting,” while 50 percent believe the opposite. Afghanistan, however, is still considered a more popular war: 53 percent believe it has been worth fighting and 41 percent think otherwise.

Those are not real popular wars. I think Vietnam polls better among its vets. Afghanistan and Iraq have both lost a lot of popularity because of perceived corruption and ingratitude by their national leaders. And unlike the rest of America, every vet can put a name and a face to the idea of “casualty,” which adds a whole other dimension to the question, “Was it worth it?” Was the war in Afghanistan worth a year out of the USA, having a business fail for lack of the deployed boss’s personal attention, the various hardships and hassles, getting shot at? Hell, against that there’s the old guy who came up and thanked us for liberating his valley from the Taliban mullah who’d stolen his farmland, the hostage we plucked out of a hole in the floor of a warlord’s outbuilding, the 300 people who swore out statements against the local mullah’s militia commander, who later (from Gitmo) confessed to over 100 murders — murders he did, mostly, so he could steal people’s property. So, when that’s the equation, the answer is, “Hell, yes.”

But then there’s the faces and the names. The friends who are like an Irish family’s out-of-town cousins — you only see ‘em at funerals. The frantic flight, launching into the gloaming on a three hour slog through complex airspace to get to a funeral home with new award ribbons so a friend can wear them on his last trip. The fiancee who couldn’t be talked out of opening a casket even when we’d checked and swore (1) it was her guy, our friend and (2) she really, really didn’t want this to be the way she remembered him. The guys who didn’t get the commands because they were dead, and the guys who did that always will be unfairly compared to their dead competition. Is it worth it, knowing all that, putting all that in the balance? And where do you put it, how much weight to give to each memory?

We don’t know. We’ll never know. We can’t go back and change or fix it anyway.

While 89 percent of veterans said they would join the military again, only 41 percent believed that the government is doing a good or excellent job “meeting the needs of the current generation of veterans.” (However, 59 percent felt that their personal needs had been met.) Unsurprisingly, 83 percent of veterans oppose reductions in benefits for servicemen and -women — even if not making the cuts leads to budget deficits.

We’d like to see benefits more narrowly targeted to those who need them as a direct consequence of combat or service. But the fact is, there will always be a percentage of people who work the system. If you make it easy for them, and eliminate the consequences of fraud (as the courts, which make their contempt for military service patent, have done), then you’ll get more fraud.

A majority of service members, 58 percent, support women serving in combat roles, and half believe it won’t make “much difference” in military effectiveness. Fifty-four percent of those polled believe that the military is doing enough to prevent sexual assaults among their ranks.

via Iraq-Afghanistan Veterans Give Obama Poor Grades | RealClearPolitics.

The Washington Post has the poll questions, but very little about the methodology, and a condescending article by Rajiv Chandrasekaran that dwells on the standard media narrative of dysfunctional, emotionally-crippled vets: vets as needy social-services consumers. He does note one interesting finding, amid all the hand-wringing:

The vets hail from families where service in the military is tradition: More than four in 10 have fathers who were in the military, and half have at least one grandparent who was. Almost 40 percent say all or most of their friends have served in the military. By contrast, a national Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted in December found that 32 percent of U.S. adults had “hardly any” or no friends who have been in the military.

You have to wonder what percentage of media drones would have “hardly any” or no friends who had been in the military. 95%? 99%? At the Post, 100%?

Chandrasekaran is the master of wringing pitiability out of places it really isn’t:

Despite their overwhelming pride and negligible regret, the veterans look back on the necessity of the conflicts with decidedly mixed feelings.

And he buries deep in the story both the bit about vets preferring Bush to Obama, and the even more interesting poll result: vets are less likely than the general population (67% to 80%) to support veterans’ preferences in jobs. (Our position: if an employer wants to offer that, more power to him. If not, no sweat. We personally believe vets make better employees, but it’s a free country, much to the dismay of Rajiv Chandrasekaran and the Washington Post).

America-hating Piers Morgan signs off with gun-control screed

History repeats.

History repeats.

Supercilious Brit Piers Morgan, who escaped from England with the hounds of Scotland Yard on his heels for his participation in the wiretapping culture of England’s crude lower-class tabloid press, finally came to the point of his last show.

Far from regretting his show’s cancellation, due to abysmally low ratings driven in some part by his doomed anti-gun crusade, Morgan doubled down on loathing for America and its gun culture during his last report.

[T]hat’s where I think guns belong – on a military battlefield, in the hands of highly trained men and women fighting for democracy and freedom. Not in the hands of civilians. The scourge of gun violence is a disease that now infects every aspect of American life.  Each day, on average, 35 people in this country are murdered with guns, another 50 kill themselves with guns, and 200 more are shot but survive. That’s 100,000 people a year hit by gunfire in America.

Now, I assumed that after 70 people were shot in a movie theater, and then, just a few months later, 20 first-graders were murdered with an assault rifle in an elementary school, that the absurd gun laws in this country would change. But nothing has happened. The gun lobby in America, led by the NRA, has bullied this nation’s politicians into cowardly, supine silence. Even when 20 young children are blown away in their classrooms.

This is a shameful situation that frankly has made me very angry. So angry, in fact, that some people have criticized me for being too loud, opinionated, even rude when I have debated the issue of guns. But I make no apologies for that.

via Piers Morgan | final show | gun control | NRA.

This is the third sacking for Morgan, if we’re counting correctly. Once for running a hoax impugning the British Army, once for the wiretapping scandal (the paper he helmed actually went out of business), and third time, at CNN, may be for keeps.

During his swan song, Morgan whined that he really would love America, if it would just be more like Britain on the gun issue. Well, we’d love you too, if you’d be more like Marcel Marceau and shut your pie hole.

Meanwhile, why not go back to Britain and face the music for your tabloid career of bugging celebrities’ phones? (In our country that’s a felony, unless — unfortunately — it’s the NSA doing it. We’re guessing that tapping Paul McCartney’s ex’s phone, as Morgan admitted doing, was a felony over there, too. Reporters working for him also bugged the Royal Family). So head on back to Britain, Piers. We’re sure they have a cozy new situation for you. Maybe we’ll come see you at the appropriate time.

CNN’s replacement for Morgan will have higher ratings, even if it’s this:

CNN Soviet Test Pattern(Soviet “Tablitsa 249″ test pattern, circa 1970, a knock-off of a 1950s Telefunken test pattern).

Update: TV personality Dana Loesch called for a Piers Morgan Range Day today. Many tweeted their own participation. Heh.

Guns sway New York Times coverage of Ukrainian Civil War

A sharp and bloody civil war is raging in Ukraine, a war with ethnic, linguistic, political, and other roots in a deeply divided society. But you know why the civil war is bad? If you read the American press, it’s because of the guns. Gee, why didn’t we think of that!

Maidan before and after

The press is true to its antigun ethos, with one reporter arguing in a tweet that “protesters using firearms in Kiev” were “Horrible tactics – practically begging for a military crackdown.” Max Fisher’s “bitch had it coming” analysis of the protests tweet linked to this New York Times story, which also blames the protesters, not the police that are gunning them down:

“There will be many dead today,” Anatoly Volk, 38, one of the demonstrators, said. He was watching stretchers carry dead and wounded men down a stairway slick with mud near the Hotel Ukraina.

Mr. Volk said the protesters had decided to try to retake the square because they believed the truce announced around midnight was a ruse. The young men in ski masks who led the push, he said, believed it was a stalling maneuver by President Yanukovych to buy time to deploy troops in the capital after the authorities decided the civilian police had insufficient forces to clear the square.

“A truce means real negotiations,” Mr. Volk said. “They are just delaying to make time to bring in more troops. They didn’t have the forces to storm us last night. So we are expanding our barricades to where they were before. We are restoring what we had.”

Gunfire crackled around the Hotel Ukraina and protesters were hit in front of the Globus shopping mall. One protester walked near the fighting with a double-barreled shotgun slung over a shoulder.

“If our guys are dying, excuse me, what can I say,” said the man, who offered only his first name, Oleg. “If they didn’t use guns, the idea never would have come to us.”

The wide use of firearms in the center of the city was a new and ominous phase for the protest movement.

via As Kiev Truce Shatters, Rumors Grow That President Will Declare State of Emergency – NYTimes.com.

The essential divide in Ukraine is an ethnic one. Yanukovych and his party, fundamentally a neo-Soviet party, led by ethnic Russians and comfortable with subservience to Moscow. (Indeed, at every step in the instant crisis Yanukovich has sought and received instructions from his lord and master, Tsar Vladimir). They consider Ukrainians second-class citizens at best. The protesters are predominantly ethnic Ukrainians, who see the Russians through the prism of centuries of Russian oppression, including the Holodomor. On this map from CNN, Russian speaking regions are darker red:

ukraine_map_region_language

The dynamic of ethnic-Russians-who-were-Soviet-era-overlords and local-ethnics-who-were-underlings has played out in the 14 non-Russia former USSR Republics and various former Autonomous Zones. It has come to shots in the Ukraine because the two parties are in rough demographic balance. This map, strikingly similar to the one above, shows the vote turnout — the Russophones voted for Yanukovych.

ukraine_map_region_vote

The peak of the current violence seems to have come when government sniper teams targeted protest leaders. US criticism of the crackdown has been ineffective in the light of Washington’s foreign and defense policy leadership vacuum. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel can’t even get his Ukrainian counterpart to answer the phone or return a call. If that’s not a sign of contempt, we don’t know what is.

Not everyone in the press has swung around to the neo-Soviet side where Fisher and the Times reporting team are comfortable. Sarah Kendzior has a piece in Politico, waspishly calling out Acela Corridor journalists like Fisher for “pretending to care about Ukraine.” Nicole Gervitz (whoever she is) did slam Max Fisher’s “bitch had it coming” tweet:

When people take up arms to protect themselves from the state that wants them dead, they are not “asking for it.”

Yeah. What she said.

Update

The situation continues to develop apace. Security forces leaders, including  reportedly lost their stomach for internal violence and have sworn loyalty to the nation, implying their willingness to maintain order for a new regime. Opposition politician Yulia Tymoshenko has been released from prison, and parliament has deposed Viktor Yanukovych, former President.

Yanukovych fled by helicopter, with a few personal followers, to the ethnic Russian city of Kharkhov (of tank battle fame) in eastern Ukraine, a hotbed of neo-Soviet sentiment. Other Yanukovych loyalists fled by vehicle convoy.

The leaders weren’t being impeded in their flight by the protesters, but police and Interior Ministry forces, especially snipers, who fell into demonstrators’ hands were being beaten. The switch of the Interior Ministry, police, and Berkut troops to the demonstrators’ side may prevent further bloodshed (on both sides) for now.

The essential problem that Ukraine is divided politically has not been solved; if anything, the divisions are now more bitter. Right now, reconciliation looks like a harder path than partition. The situation remains fluid.

One for you Marines

Semper Fee, guys:

Her parents were affirmative-action-hire professors and she has a PhD her ownself, so of course this product of the Self-Esteem Generation is as dumb as a box of rocks, without the common sense God gave the birds of the air and the beasts of the field.

So in a segment where she’s concern-trolling the military, she gets all choked up about the power of military mottoes. Like “Semper Fee.”

This is the same girl that showed her complete lack of class and breeding, not to mention her unseemly racism, in an attack on Mitt Romney’s grandchild (a) because the kid was black and (b) because she disagrees with Romney’s politics. What can you really say about a person like this, who was not raised with a shred of humanity or decency?

She comes from the academic class, and no doubt thinks that Marines (and all the rest of us “green-collar” workers) are dumb. Well, how does it feel to be dumber than every. Single. Marine. Boot. Ever. Huh? And every one of their friends and family members?

AKs everywhere! But what if there never was an AK?

In the comments from yesterday’s post, What did Kalashnikov ever do to these guys?, historian Daniel E. Watters had a key insight into the hand-wringing and pearl-clutching that crept into almost every Mikhail Kalashnikov obit:

[E]very small arms design the Soviets adopted was handed out like cheap party favors. If Kalashnikov’s design wasn’t selected, the journalists would have been decrying the ubiquitous nature of some other Soviet engineer’s rifle.

via What did Kalashnikov ever do to these guys? | WeaponsMan.

He’s got a point. If Sudayev, who died at age 33, had lived, or if Bulkin’s AB had edged out the AK  (instead of having a lot of its internals form the bolt carrier and piston, and recoil spring, of the final AK), people who bemoan the butcher’s bill of the AK-47 might be weeping over the AS-47 or AB-47 instead. (You can see some of the contenders here at Max’s).

Given Russian history and capabilities, they were going to come up with a pretty good gun, or keep trying until they did. And given Soviet ideology and foreign policy, when they got it right they were going to give it to every nascent country, revolutionary group, and terrorist outfit — at least, terrorist outfits that aimed to terrorize someplace other than Russia or the “fraternal Socialist states.”

Not just for the Soviets, arms supplies have always been a tool of international diplomacy. The US has used arms to cement alliances worldwide (gaining collateral benefits of employment at home in the arms industry, and the leverage that comes with controlling the tap of spare parts). As Louis XVI fought his epic wars with Britain, tends of thousands of stands of arms (a musket, bayonet and accoutrements) shipped to the rebellious American colonies, to the point that when the USA began to manufacture its first rifle, the M1795 Springfield, it bore the characteristics not of the .75 caliber Short or Long Land Pattern Musket (Brown Bess) standard in the colonies pre-war, but the .69 caliber Charleville M1766 that our first ally, the Kingdom of France, had provided in such great quantities.