Monthly Archives: May 2014

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 Terrorist vs the Widow and Kids

Omar Khadr is, nominally, Canadian. The committed al-Qaeda terrorist would tell you, if he were not using his nominal Canadian nationality as a shield to escape consequences for his own criminality, that he’s really a citizen of the worldwide ummah and a global Caliphate that doesn’t exist yet. But it will as soon as he and his fellow terrorists just murder, enslave, and intimidate those who are not on board with this experiment in social organization.

Khadr was, on January 20, 2009, where he belonged: in prison after killing and wounding American Special Operations soldiers after a feigned surrender. Omar pled guilty — with pride — to five specifications of war crimes. Canadian columnist Ezra Levant has a description of Khadr’s capture, in a longer piece on Khadr’s condition and connections excerpted from his book:

Omar Khadr, treated by SF medic (r.), kept asking in English how many infidels he had killed, and begging to be shot so he could be a martyr.

Omar Khadr, treated by SF medic (r.), kept asking in English how many infidels he had killed, and begging to be shot so he could be a martyr. That’s not how we roll.

While Khadr cursed the soldiers with his fading breaths and demanded they make a martyr of him so he could collect his promised reward in the afterlife for dying while murdering a Christian, they acted, instead, only and utterly humanely. At the time, they had no way of knowing that Khadr was a high-value capture, a young man who inherited the networks of his crime family, networks extending all the way to al-Qaeda’s most senior figures. They wouldn’t have known he was a Canadian citizen. This teenager lying in the middle of an Afghan wasteland certainly wouldn’t have looked the part. Complying with his request — to shoot him right there and then, moments after he had blown up Christopher Speer, after he had fought these soldiers so relentlessly in a firefight lasting hours — could have been a very powerful temptation. It must have seemed impossible that anyone would even care. Even just to let him die, to suffocate on his own blood, right there in the Afghan mud, would have been a simple thing to do. It might not even have taken very long for him to succumb to his serious injuries, including two bullets in his thorax.

Instead, U.S. medics rushed to save Omar Khadr’s life, providing him critical medical care right there in the field. “We had two medics that day and he killed the first one,” Sgt. Layne Morris, who lost his eye when Khadr’s al-Qaeda cell attacked him and his fellow troops, told Global News in 2005. “The second one saved his life. He would have bled to death from his injuries in a short amount of time.”

While we reccomend you Read the Whole Thing™ at Canada’s National Post, we actually recommend you Read The Whole Thing™, Levant’s book, The Enemy Within.

Layne Morris. He has a glass eye now and looks better -- but he still can't see with it.

Layne Morris. He has a glass eye now and looks better — but he still can’t see with it. He and Speer’s surviors (and other men Khadr wounded) are suing the now-wealthy terrorist.

Layne Morris was a Special Forces soldier; Khadr’s breach of the laws and usages of war left him retired on disability. The man Khadr killed, Chris Speer, was a member of a JSOC element, and left behind a widow and two young children. Khadr himself was raised in an atmosphere of Islamic terrorism: his heroes the Moslem Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda, with which his father and brothers proudly claimed to align. It was his murderous Mohammedan faith that brought him to Afghanistan, it was his murderous Mohammedan faith that taught him to kill, and it was his murderous Mohammedan faith that initially demanded that the soldiers administer a coup de grâce so that he could complete his murderous Mohammedan martyrdom.

They refused, saving his life, and into custody he went.

What happened on January 20, 2009 that elevated the interests of this curious specimen over the interests of the United States, not to mention the interests of Speer’s survivors? We leave that as an exercise for the reader.

No sooner does Levant, a scourge and target of Canada’s home-grown Islamic terror lobby, lay down the cudgel, than American columnist Michelle Malkin takes it up. Her position is in support of the bereaved victims of Khadr’s perfidy, Tabitha, Taryn and Tanner Speer:

Behold Canada and America. One country supports the efforts of a U.S. special forces soldier’s widow to hold accountable the jihadist who killed her husband and the father of her two young children. The other country helped free that jihadist from Guantanamo Bay in a shady deal that appeased his far-left allies.

Guess which side President Obama’s on.

The widow is Tabitha Speer. Her children are Taryn and Tanner. Their husband and father was an American hero: Sergeant First Class Christopher Speer, a 28-year-old medic with the U.S. Special Forces. As I reported in my syndicated column 11 years ago, Speer died in Afghanistan during an ambush by al-Qaida operatives. The remorseless Islamic zealot who lobbed the fatal grenade that killed Speer in 2002: 15-year-old Omar Khadr.

The conservative Canadian government lent its public support to the Speer family and to Morris on the eve of Memorial Day weekend: “Our government supports the efforts of Tabitha Speer and fellow soldiers to receive compensation for their horrible loss.” Good for them.

How about America’s leaders? AWOL. The reason Khadr is in Canada, in case you didn’t know, is that Obama freed Khadr from Gitmo after intense lobbying from the “compassionate” social justice crowd. He was repatriated to Canada just weeks before America’s November 2012 election. Leading the pressure campaign on Obama: the Center for Constitutional Rights, which also crusaded for the release of former Gitmo jihadist Abu Sufian bin Qumu, a primary suspect in the Benghazi consulate attacks.

…[W]hat does it say when the Canadian government shows more compassion for the fatherless children of a U.S. soldier than their own government? A search for the Speer children on the White House website yielded:

“No results.”

We’d advise you to Read The Whole Thing™. Set free with a stroke of the pen and home in Canada, Omar Khadr is back in the comforting embrace of his terrorist family and a variety of Islamic and left-wing extremists. His family, who have apparently been on welfare as it is practiced in Toronto, have somehow become millionaires, and the Speer family and Layne have a lawsuit that even the tort-bar-unfriendly among us might see as having the potential to deliver justice.

Since the United States officials charged with that responsibility have lain down on the job, we American SF and SOF vets are thankful to PM Steven Harper and Minister of Public Safety Steven Blaney for standing up for us. (Of course, Canadians have a diversity of opinions on the issue. Opposition leaders Mulcair of the NDP and Justin Trudeau of the Liberals support Khadr).

How .22 Ammo is Made

We’re suckers for the video of industrial processes, and there’s probably no process in the arms industry more automated, specialized, or cost-sensitive as the production of .22 rimfire ammunition. A crew from the Outdoor Channel spent some time at CCI in Lewiston, ID (which we didn’t know before, is across the river from Clarkston, WA) shooting video of the process from sheet brass and molten lead to a pallet of packed ammo on the loading dock.

CCI’s plant produces 16 packed pallets a day, 4 million rounds of .22LR.

And then it all goes to some guy in Ottumwa who is hoarding it all, apparently.

Some of the steps are surprisingly manual, even repetitious steps. One wonders if there’s a more automated way to do some of the manual steps they do. But they may be at an inflection point where the capital expense of further automation has such a long payback tail that it can’t be justified. Also, having a human in the loop may be a benefit if one of the things you need is flexibility. Humans are kind of “software-defined” as process steps go: they’re easily reprogrammed to do something different. The sort of analog machinery you see on this production line? Not so much.

Rambo Knives in Court

first-blood-knife-rambo

Hollywood in a nutshell: Actor who played heroes but was a Stolen Valor case disarms actor who played heroes but was a Vietnam draft dodger.

There is probably no character less beloved in SF that Sylvester Stallone’s inarticulate, raging PTSD case, John Rambo. In the 1980s, when Stallone and Rambo were ascendant in the popular culture, “Rambo” was a slang term for a newbie acting like a bozo full of false motivation. Having your lane grader call out “Hey, Rambo,” to you in Phase I of the SFQC was, at best, an indicator that you were on the bubble, and at worst, an omen of imminent dismissal. Any oversized, gaudy and chintzy sheath knife was called a “Rambo Knife,” and considered a marker  of acute or chronic newbitude. This was a disease cured only by experience and a gradual assimilation into the culture, as the unwritten laws (like “do not carry a Rambo Knife,” for one glaring example).

Rambo KnifeThe gradation among many knives was subtle and changed over time. A Gerber Mark II was OK, especially if it was an old and weathered one. But a Fairbairn-Sykes knife was not OK, even if your great-uncle Nigel had carried it on the Lofoten Islands raid. A Randall 14 was big and shiny, but given its build quality and place in SF history, was a marker of excellent judgment; a nice, subdued K-Bar or Glock knife was a marker of a keen sense of value and practicality; a Rambo Knife was a marker of too little wit to see the difference between promotion and product.

The Rambo Knife was, indeed, the absolute nadir of the knifemaker’s art, as far as SF soldiers were concerned, except during the brief and laughable production run of the made-for-Hollywood Buckmaster. The SEALs had something to do with that.

So it’s a surprise to use to see the horrible knives are not only still in production (proving once again Barnum’s Law), but have two separate entities fighting over the rights to them:

A judge won’t cut down a lawsuit over replica knives from the Rambo films. The dispute is between Hollywood Collectibles, the licensor, and Master Cutlery, the manufacturer. The licensing deal expired two years ago, but the Rambo knives are allegedly still being produced. Almost like the films.

It’s the last item on this catchall legal report at the Hollywood Reporter.

The lawsuit is available in Scribd at the link, or as a .pdf here (227004096-Rambo-Knives.pdf). There are several amusing things in the suit, even after you’ve run out of the laughs generated by the very idea of teams of lawyers fighting over bad knives from bad movies.

For example, the plaintiff, a licensing outfit and sports-memorabilis called “Hollywood Collectibles,” is located roughly 3000 miles from Hollywood. (Movie magic, that). The defendant is called “Master Cutlery.” “Master?” They’re joking, right? They make Rambo Knives for Christ’s sake. Not just with the fake signature of Sylvester Stallone, who is at least a real person (in a limited edition of — hoot! — 10,000), but also a machete with the fake signature of John J. Rambo , who is a fake person created by novelist David Morell (whose fake signature is not available, alas for completists). The fake Rambo machets also has a fake signature burned into the sheath, and they are also making only 10,000 of these. (They seem to retail for a $20-30 premium over the ones without the fake signature. People pay over $100 for one of these cheesy things).

If your taste in tasteless doesn’t run to Rambo, and your worry more about the undead than the unauthentic, Master (heh) Cutlery can also find you a Genuine Walking Dead Fake Samurai Sword. No signature, though. (Walkers can’t read).

If you haven’t gone all the way round the bend yet, consider that the John Rambo signature machete comes complete with Certificate of Authenticity for this fake person’s fake signature.

And part of the complaint was dismissed because the owners of the rights, a company named NuImage and Lion’s Gate Films, only sold Hollywood-3000-miles-from-Home a nonexclusive right. But in the end, the court left enough claims stand that the suit continues — in Florida.

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.

Don’t Bring a Bat to a Gunfight

Watch out for the one with your name on it.

Watch out for the one with your name on it.

If the guy who attacked a citizen and six police officers with a baseball bat takes one lesson away from the experience, that’s probably it: don’t bring a bat to a gunfight.

But, since he “has a long history of violence and mental illness,” he’s unlikely to be too receptive to lessons. Even those corrective messages delivered at 1200 feet per second.

Officers say a man later identified as Almed Gebreyhonnes, 27, was acting bizarre and carrying a baseball bat on Candice Court around 8:00pm.

Investigators say the suspect wouldn’t follow instructions and came at officers with the baseball bat.

One officer said he used a stun gun to try to subdue Gebreyhonnes but the became even more aggressive and threatened officers with the bat.

Officials say two officers shot the suspect who was wounded and then transported to the hospital in critical but stable condition.

Investigators say Gebreyhonnes was arrested on an outstanding warrant and will be charged additionally with several counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (for the officers and at least one civilian he tried to attack and threatened).

Detective say he has a long history of violence and mental health issues.  It is not clear what caused him to attack at the officers at this time, due to his long history of mental illness.

via Orlando Police Officer shoots man with baseball bat – FOX 35 News Orlando.

When a guy has a “long history” of crimes, you have to wonder what’s wrong with our system that we treat each instance of criminal behavior de novo, like it was a first-time prank. At what point is it clear that someone just cannot function in free society? But we still have Baby Duck courts, to whom every offense is like Baby Duck’s First Day, and there are no experiences to learn from. 

Whether he’s back out in two days, two weeks, or two years, it’s sure as sunset that this guy’s going to commit violent crime again. It’s what he does. If he pulled this kind of recidivism in China, they’d be tissue-typing his organs for imminent redistribution, and who’s to say they’re wrong? But we’re going to let him back out on the street, still nuts, still violent, still unable to do anything in a civilized society except prey on it. He has rights… to the extent that his inevitable future victims do not.

Ah. So this is how the President Supports Syrian Rebels

Last week, the word that the President intended for the USA to support Syrian rebels openly — after years of dithering that have seen any pro-Western group decimated, and few but Islamist extremists remaining in the field against Bashar Assad — hit the media. Then, the President followed up by speaking at West Point and telling the grads that thanks to him, they will serve in a smaller peacetime force… and waiting for reaction that didn’t come, to what he had thought was an applause line. (You do hear intermittent applause during the speech, but it’s all from his core fanbase in the press gallery).

Now, we learn how the USA is supporting Syrian rebels. Thanks to NBC via This Ain’t Hell:

Word of the American’s death in the suicide bombing first surfaced Tuesday in tweets from the al-Nusra Front, an al Qaeda-linked group fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The tweets identified the bomber only by his Arabic nom de guerre, “Abu Hurayra al-Amriki,” (Abu Hurayra the American) and said he carried out one of four suicide bombings of Syrian government sites in Jabal al-Arbaa’in in Idlib Province — the scene of heavy fighting in recent weeks and months.

“Abu Hurayra Al-Amriki performed a martrydom operation in Idlib, Jabal Al-Arba’een. May Allah accept him,” it said.

via Congrats to the US’ first known suicide bomber : This ain’t Hell, but you can see it from here.

It’s uncertain what, if anything, this unnamed knucklehead blew up, except for himself; but that’s enough to make him a success in the topsy-turvy world of Islam.

A Mess of Accidents, May edition

ND-shot-in-footHollywood, FL, 20 April 14 “Cleaning the gun”

So there he was, cleaning his .38, which he dropped. BANG. The press gives him the benefit of a cop-style passive voice: “[T]he firearm dropped to the floor and discharged, hitting the man in the backside.” Yep, shot himself in the gluteus, which makes you wonder what his cleaning protocol is. If your gun-cleaning approach has potential to shoot yourself in the rear end, you need a new approach.

And another one that just “dropped” and “discharged.” Geez, what those guns get up to if you don’t keep an eye on ’em.

Ormond-by-the-Sea, FL, 22 April 14 “You keep using that word, accident…”

An Ormond-by-the-Sea woman who told neighbors that she shot her husband accidentally, told her mother the shooting occurred when she walked in on her spouse, saw him holding the weapon to his head and tried to wrest it from him.

“He told her he was going to kill himself,” Barbara Barrells said Tuesday afternoon outside her daughter’s house on Seabreeze Drive. “He had done that before. He was an alcoholic.”

If you’re going to do weird stuff with guns, you might as well be named Barrells. 

Alcohol plus Gunpowder, plus a Really Stupid Safety Demonstration

The Detroit Free Press has covered this well:

As he stood an arm’s length away from his girlfriend in the bedroom of their new home, James Jewell pressed a gun to his temple and pulled the trigger.

The Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office says the 39-year-old committed suicide.

His family disagrees, saying he died in a horrifying mishap when the weapon discharged unexpectedly, during a safety lesson gone wrong. They want his death reclassified as an accident.

Police also have said the shooting was accidental.

“I was there. I know that’s not what he wanted to do,” said Jennifer Jackson, 36, Jewell’s girlfriend of nearly four years.

What Jewell was trying to do, she said, was convince her to keep a gun for her own protection. He meant to show her that guns are safe.

Go Read The Whole Thing™, complete with photos of the grieving girlfriend and, from happier days, the deceased would-be safety instructor — they look like the mugs next door in any working-class neighborhood in America. The beef is that the coroner says it’s suicide, and everyone else says it’s a stupid accident. A distinction with a very small difference, in terms of the ultimate products of it.

Needless to say, a Safety Demonstration that involves a gun pointed at your temple is never a good idea.

Unintended Consequences always loom large when you’re handling guns. You need to keep your wits about you. It is one thing to live in a free country where you can demonstrate gun safety any way you like (or tap a keg on the firing line at an MG shoot, something Small Arms of the World, the website, recalls seeing in the eighties), but far from absolving you of your need to apply common sense, it puts a greater burden upon you. Q.E.D.

Anderson, SC, 14 May 14. When Testing a Bulletproof Vest:

Two things you ought to do: (1) determine conclusively that it is meant to stop bullets, not light fragmentation. You really don’t want to get that one wrong. And (2) determine that the person shooting you has the marksmanship skills to hit you in the vest as opposed to, say, in the neck or through the fringes of the thing. Blake Wardell, 26, was a Darwin Award level no-go at this station. His designated shooter, Taylor Kelly, 18, plugged him in the heart. She is charged with involuntary manslaughter.

“Stupid is as stupid does.” — Forrest’s mama.

UPDATE: It turns out that Kelly is not only stupid, she’s real stupid. Cops are now saying she didn’t even shoot the guy, a third “friend” did. She stepped up to take the rap for him. Awwww. Ain’t that special? Of course, now he’s charged with involuntary manslaughter, and she’s charged with accessory to involuntary manslaughter.

The family that fails together jails together, we guess. These three are all no-goes at the friend selection station.

Memphis, TN, 20 May 14 “Is that a pistol in your pocket, or did the film excite you?”

We suppose a two-shot .38 derringer is better than no gun at all. And loading just one chamber is better than loading no chambers. Unless you’re going to drop the gun and ND in a Victim Disarmament Zone, and right in front of an off-duty cop. D’oh!

Police said [63-year-old George] Gholson took a .38-caliber, two-shot Derringer into a movie theater in east Memphis. The gun, which was loaded with one bullet, fell out of his pants pocket and fired the round.

Police said none of the 18 people in the theater were hit. An off-duty police officer who was in the theater at the time took Gholson into custody.

San Angelo, TX 23 May 14

There was a little too much of the store’s namesake at Action Pawn in this West Texas city, when a regular customer retrieved a .45 he’d pawned… and promptly shot himself with it while loading up.

That’ll leave a mark.

“He was handling the gun and apparently didn’t know that it was loaded. He was handling the gun and it discharged. It was an accidental discharge,” Keeling said.

The bullet went through his hand and he was taken to Shannon Medical Center. Sgt. Keeling said the man was in the process of loading the gun before he left the store and accidentally fired it into his hand.

The gun was a .45 caliber handgun. Sgt. Keeling said there was no criminal intent.

The man is 53 years old and a regular customer of Action Pawn. The store will remained closed for the forseeable future to allow staff time to clean up the blood.

That is one of the weaknesses of the 1911 system, in that the safety has to be off to load the firearm. Still, what about the rule that starts, “Never point the firearm…”?

Chicongo, 18 Feb 2009 (hearing 23 May 14) “I feel terrible for my mistake”

How “accidental” this one is depends on your point of view, because the decedent killed herself. But one of the things that cops are not usually eager to talk about to muggles is the way a few cops see “damsel in distress” calls as a chance to… score. Sergeant Steven Lesner met a woman named Catherine Weiland (and got her number) at a domestic disturbance call, and that night met her for booze, TV, and whatever else came up.

“Whatever else came up” was Weiland shooting herself with Lesner’s service pistol while he was in the bathroom.

“I urinated. I washed my hands and heard a pop, a bang,” Lesner testified.

He said he came out of the bathroom and saw his gun — which he said had been in an ankle holster when he set it down — on Weiland’s lap.

“I realized she wasn’t moving,” Lesner testified. “She looked DOA . . . I saw blood dripping out of her ear. I called 911 immediately.”

Weiland was not specifically reported to be suicidal, but testimony suggested that she suffered from bipolar disorder.

Five years after the incident, Lesner’s still on the job, and the case is unresolved. The case appears not to have even been investigated until the media got hold of it years later. His attorney insistes that Lesner is “not responsible for her death.” He might have a point if he moved the period three words to the left.

Edgewater, FL 27 May 14:  Cop has Negligent Discharge with AR-15

If he was in Ranger Battalion, he’d be dragging his duffel bag across post to a line unit already. But being a cop means never having to say you’re sorry, and an Edgewater patrolman was saved by a converging department after he negligently broke a round “while investigating a possible hostage situation.”

If there had been a hostage, that probably would have been the end of the hostage, but Officer Butterfingers (he hasn’t been named… he’s a secret policeman) has a great flimsy excuse: his keychain did it.

Police said an internal investigation found the officer was carrying the rifle while investigating a possible hostage situation on Kumquat Drive when it got caught on a key ring attached to the officer’s duty belt and discharged.

Note the passive constructions: “it got caught” and “discharged.”

The patrol rifle was pointed toward the ground when a round fired and didn’t cause any injuries.

And “a round fired.” Ah, those willful rounds!

Police said officers will no longer be permitted to wear key rings on the exterior of their uniform to prevent another accidental shooting.

At least the guy wasn’t muzzling anybody when he popped off.

FBI Shooter in Marathon case had Lousy Record as Cop

keep-calm-and-carry-a-fbi-badgeIbragim Todashev, a buddy of Boston Marathon bomber and certified Islamic crazy Tamerlan “Speedbump” Tsarnayev, was shot dead by FBI Agent Aaron McFarlane, 41, in Orlando. The Bureau immediately ruled it a good shooting, then investigated and confirmed their initial decision.

But before he swore an oath as a Special Agent, Aaron McFarlane had a terrible record as an Oakland, CA cop. Reason reports:

The Globe reports that while in Oakland, McFarlane was the target of two police brutality lawsuits (costing Oakland at least $32,500 in settlements), four internal affairs investigations, and once plead the Fifth during a police corruption trial in which prosecutors accused him of falsifying police reports. All this, mind you, in four years. McFarlane went on to collect a $52,000 a year pension after “retiring” ten years ago at 31.

He was hired by the FBI five years ago, but continues to collect a pension, which he is promised for life. McFarlane was employed with the Oakland Police Department while it was embroiled in the largest corruption scandal in its history, one which cost the city $10 million and for which the department is still under federal oversight. He is the son of a former police officer.

When Oakland pays their police officers a higher pension than the median household income in the U.S., it shouldn’t be surprising they’re in a fiscal mess. Occupy Oakland has spent the last few years instead blaming capitalism for the city’s problems.

They’re citing this article in the Boston Globe, a paper that’s probably interested because McFarlane is an agent in the Boston field office. The article contains several other bombshells, including that McFarlane took the Fifth in a corruption investigation in Oakland.

Sure, it’s his right to take the fifth, and no one is supposed to draw any inferences from that.

Like the inference that, “This guy might not be an ideal candidate for the job of Special Agent of the FBI.” They sure didn’t draw that inference. Or the inference that he had something to hide. Or the inference that public servants ought to be concerned about appearing to have integrity at all times and in all places.

You have to wonder how many other FBI SA’s have so little integrity that they’re riding a disability from some other cop job.

When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have saws

No, not this.

No, not this.

In Japan, where guns really are outlawed, pop stars Anna Iriyama and Rina Kawaei are recovering — fortunately — from wounds inflicted by a nut job with a saw on Sunday. The two young singers are members of a Japanese singing/dancing pop group that contains dozens of members, and stages regular events where the girls meet and shake hands with their fans, as part of a fan-participation model that also lets fans vote on new members annually. (Originally the group came from Akihabara (a district in Tokyo) and had 48 members; it currently has 140, and spinoff groups are located in other Japanese cities).

Japan’s hugely popular pop group AKB48 cancelled fan events Monday after a saw-wielding man attacked two members and a staffer, shocking the country and raising questions over their security.

The two women and the male staffer who tried to stop the attack Sunday at a fan event in northern Japan suffered hand and head injuries, but are recovering, police and the group’s blog say.

The attack on a group whose members are dubbed “idols that you can meet” because of their approachable fan services has rattled people in a nation known for its safety levels. The news topped TV entertainment shows and even the two nationwide newspapers Yomiuri and Mainichi.

On Sunday, the group gave a mini-concert for hundreds of fans and then followed with a handshaking event — in which fans who buy special CDs can shake hands and chat briefly with their favourite member. As soon as the handshaking event in Takizawa city started, a man suddenly took out a saw from his jacket and went toward the two women standing at the entrance.

Police arrested Satoru Umeda, 24 and unemployed, immediately.

Dozens of AKB48 handshaking events are held in Japan a year. Bouncers — called “peelers” here — are assigned to these events to remove fans who linger, but no major attacks had been previously reported.

via Members of Japanese girl group AKB48 injured after saw-wielding man attacks pop stars at event | National Post.

The strict Japanese weapons law applies not only to firearms, but also to swords. As law professor Dave Kopel noted in 1993 in the Asian Pacific Law Review:

The weapons law begins by stating ‘No-one shall possess a fire-arm or fire-arms or a sword or swords’, and very few exceptions are allowed.

The only type of firearm which a Japanese citizen may even contemplate acquiring is a shotgun. Sportsmen are permitted to possess shotguns for hunting and for skeet and trap shooting, but only after submitting to a lengthy licensing procedure. Without a license, a person may not even hold a gun in his or her hands.

Civilians can never own handguns. Small calibre rifles were once legal, but in 1971, the Government forbade all transfers of rifles. Current rifle license holders may continue to own them, but their heirs must turn them into the police when the license-holder dies. Total remaining rifle licenses are 27,000.

Kopel attributes Japan’s low weapons-possession rates to the fact that weapons were always, in Japan, restricted to the use of the government and the ruling classes. This policy began with Hideyoshi, the unifier of modern Japan in the 16th Century:

Having conquered the Japanese, Hidéyoshi meant to keep them under control. On 29 August 1588, Hidéyoshi announced ‘the Sword Hunt’ (taiko no katanagari) and banned possession of swords and firearms by the non-noble classes. He decreed:

The people in the various provinces are strictly forbidden to have in their possession any swords, short swords, bows, spears, firearms or other arms. The possession of unnecessary implements makes difficult the collection of taxes and tends to foment uprisings… Therefore the heads of provinces, official agents and deputies are ordered to collect all the weapons mentioned above and turn them over to the Government.

Although the intent of Hidéyoshi’s decree was plain, the Sword Hunt was presented to the masses under the pretext that all the swords would be melted down to supply nails and bolts for a temple containing a huge statue of the Buddha. The statue would have been twice the size of the Statue of Liberty…. Once the swords and guns were collected, Hidéyoshi had them melted into a statue of himself.

Don’t give our politicians any ideas….

The historian Stephen Turnbull writes:

Hidéyoshi’s resources were such that the edict was carried out to the letter. The growing social mobility of peasants was thus flung suddenly into reverse. The ikki, the warrior-monks, became figures of the past…Hidéyoshi had deprived the peasants of their weapons. Iéyasu [the next ruler] now began to deprive them of their self respect. If a peasant offended a samurai he might be cut down on the spot by the samurai’s sword.

The inferior status of the peasantry having been affirmed by civil disarmament, the Samurai enjoyed kiri-sute gomen, permission to kill and depart. Any disrespectful member of the lower class could be executed by a Samurai’s sword.

In time the samurai, too, lost the right to arms. But Japan is, overall, much more law-abiding than any European or American state. Kopel notes that:

America’s non-gun robbery rate is over 70 times Japan’s, an indication that something more significant than gun policy is involved in the differing crime rates between the two nations. Neither Japanese nor American prisoners have guns, but homicide by prisoners and attacks on guards occur frequently in American prisons, and almost never in Japanese prisons. Another indication that social standards matter more than gun laws is that Japanese-Americans, who have access to firearms, have a lower violent crime rate than do Japanese in Japan.

Japan is an ethnical and racial uniculture that places tremendous emphasis on group identity, conformity and obedience to lawful authority, and these values are internalized by Japanese from childhood, just as Americans are acculturated to independence, individuality and even rebellion from childhood. But “social scientists” say the guns are the difference. Who are we to deny (social) science?

Few details on Umeda’s “saw” were available, but police characterized it as “50 cm long” — about 20 inches. It is fortunate, perhaps, that he chose a saw in place of a kitchen knife. He might have killed those poor girls. As it is, they’ll recover.

But violent mental insanity is a uniquely American problem, caused by the ready availability of assault weapons. All the best papers say so.