Monthly Archives: June 2014

Amateur SWAT is Worse Than Regular SWAT

Fly SwatterA post at Extrano’s Alley reminds us that we’ve been remiss in following up the issues with a Georgia SWAT wrong-house raid that left a child hovering near death for days. The Stranger quotes a gut-wrenching paragraph from an article by the kid’s mother, in Salon:

I heard my baby wailing and asked one of the officers to let me hold him. He screamed at me to sit down and shut up and blocked my view, so I couldn’t see my son. I could see a singed crib. And I could see a pool of blood. The officers yelled at me to calm down and told me my son was fine, that he’d just lost a tooth. It was only hours later when they finally let us drive to the hospital that we found out Bou Bou was in the intensive burn unit and that he’d been placed into a medically induced coma.

via Parents Report On The Child The SWAT Team Blew Up With A Grenade | Extrano’s Alley, a gun blog.

There are some serious training deficiencies evident with these County Mounties from Gaptooth County, GA, and their Good Ol’ Boys SWAT Team an’ Mixed-Race-Kid Huntin’ Club.

Flashbang 101

Let’s begin with what a flash-bang is, what it was invented for, and how to use it. It is an offensive grenade providing a disorienting less-lethal (as we’ve seen in this case, not necessarily non-lethal) explosion that is intended to distract a hostage taker long enough for a CT team’s assaulters or snipers to kill him before he can target them. It was developed for national-level CT assets and Is the sort of weapon you use as an alternative to seeing hostages murdered — it’s a lesser evil.

Here’s the employment scheme for a flash-bang.

  1. With eyes on target, locate an area to throw the grenade in that does not have anyone in it (except perhaps a hostage-taker).
  2. Arm and throw the grenade at that exact spot, while maintaining eyes on target.
  3. Take eyes off target and shield them for blast.
  4. Instantly after blast, make entry. Locate the hostage taker and kill him before he reorients himself.

The weapon was never designed to be used in a case where you are trying to take your opponent alive. Those safety measures (eyes on the place you’re throwing the flash-bang) are there because of the probable presence of individuals who are not your opponents (the opponents are designated to die in any case).

To pass flash-bang certification (required in ethical units/departments to be able to throw the things “for real”), an assaulter has to run that cycle or something very similar, usually involving an instructor on the target making eye contact and seeing that the student’s eyes are searching the room. Throw a flash/bang blind? Never get certified.

Team Operations Require Team Training

Here’s the key to clearing buildings and/or rescuing hostages: it’s a team sport, and apart from individual skills, the team needs the kind of teamwork that only high-intensity and frequent drills produce. The drills only work with the same guys in the same position — the position you play is as important here as it is on, say, a football team or rugby side. You can’t be a lineman one day and a receiver the next, and quarterback some other time. Not if you aspire to membership in the ranks of the professionals.

And Here’s What You Get When You Skip That:

Here’s a few fun facts about the incident that wounded “Bou-bou” Phonesavanh.

  • The individual who threw the grenade in Georgia had no such flash-bang certification. Neither did any of the SWAT members.
  • The thrower had not had any formal training on how to use the grenade, or its capabilities.
  • He’d never thrown one before.
  • The individual never looked in the room, but threw the grenade blind into the toddler’s crib.
  • The SWAT members didn’t just lie to the child’s stressed-out mother, Alecia Phonesavanh. They also lied to their superiors about the incident. Many departments will countenance the former, but not many have much toleration for the latter. (There’s also some question of the integrity of the officers in charge, who have previously been found to falsify records in other cases).
  • The SWAT team was all new and had conducted almost no individual and collective training.
  • They claimed they “knew” there were no children in the house, but no policeman had been in the house, and even their informant had not been inside. They actually had to move a baby stroller and walk past a minivan with four child seats to stack up on the house. Four child seats and a stroller are what an intelligence officer might call “indicators.”
  • News stories say the target of the raid was arrested “later,” but supposedly the investigation has uncovered that he was already in custody when the raid initiated. So the raid took place to grab a guy who was already in the back of a cruiser elsewhere. “Why waste a good (?) raid plan?” seems to have been their rationale.

A previous team with some of the same officers shot an innocent man in 2009, and investigation then determined that some of the officers had had no training but did have pencil-whipped training records. That one cost the taxpayers $2.3 million despite DA Brian Rickman’s efforts to cover it up. He was working to cover this one up, too, so the investigation has been taken out of his untrustworthy hands. There were no consequences to Rickman or county police leadership over the falsified records and cover-up attempt. In retrospect, that was probably one of the errors that led directly to the grave injuries visited on this innocent kid.

Now, the system is going all-out to protect these guys, who are enjoying the traditional non-charged vacation. But if you’re a serious cop who doesn’t want your department to star in a story like this, here are a few pointers:

  1. Know your limitations. If you’re a rural, small department with a tight budget, maybe a SWAT team is not for you, and you’d be better off relying on regional assets or coming up with more creative ways to collect your fugitives and serve your warrants,
  2. Don’t let your desire for shiny war toys from the Pentagon write a check that your training budget can’t cash. Bare minimum proficiency at clearing simple, small buildings can be achieved in three weeks of 16-plus hour days, with the same guys in the same positions. And that assumes that they’re already proficient with the guns they’ll be using. Any more than bare minimum proficiency requires more than this bare minimum training schedule.
  3. Never, ever, turn an officer loose without him having documented and complete training on his weapons systems. Trust, sure, but verify. Not having done that is about to bite the taxpayers of this jurisdiction in the wallet for the second time in four years. At some point, they’ll get tired of writing checks and shake up police leadership.

If you read #3 above and your approach is to make up fictional training and write it in your officers’ personnel jackets, you’re doing it wrong — you’re doing what these clowns did. Don’t be that guy.

Next Failure as VA Secretary Named

VA-veterans-affairsOver the weekend, the press published many stories about the new Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Most of them were like this story at the New York Daily News, phoned-in pack journalism that prints the narrative (i.e., the Va is, “an agency beset by treatment delays and struggling to deal with an influx of new veterans returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” When the real workload is aging WWII, Korean and Vietnam-era vets). But they did at least get the guy’s name right: Robert A. McDonald.

An administration official said Obama would announce McDonald’s appointment Monday. If confirmed by the Senate, McDonald would succeed Eric Shinseki, the retired four-star general who resigned last month as the scope of the issues at veterans’ hospitals became apparent.

Nothing about Robert McDonald, a former head of Procter & Gamble, suggests he has any hope of turning around this particular bottom-seeking Titanic of an agency. After leaving the Army he was a career P&G employee for 33 years, with the last three in the top job. While he was there, the company performed well and grew slowly but steadily, so he’s probably not a bozo. That’s good news. But on the other hand, he’s never had a turn-around task. He’s got one now.

The President may have chosen him because he grew up in Chicago. He sure as hell didn’t choose him because McDonald is one of his political supporters, though. In the 2012 cycle, McDonald (he’s the Robert A. from Cincinnati, identified as working for P&G or retired) gave $10,000 to Mitt Romney, and thousands more to other Republican efforts.

In tapping McDonald for the post, Obama is signaling his desire to install a VA chief with broad management experience. McDonald also had military experience, graduating near the top of his class from West Point and serving as a captain in the Army, primarily in the 82nd Airborne Division.

via Former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald tapped to lead Veterans Affairs – NY Daily News.

McDonald was a member of the Class of ’75, and so his service was in the Carter-era Hollow Army. There has been a lot of reaction from a lot of folks already, but there are really only three questions anyone needs to ask about this:

  1. Will McDonald hold VA executives and managers accountable for their mis-, mal- and non-feasance that has neglected vets to the point that many have sickened and died? and,
  2. Will McDonald change the culture of the VA from one of self-service by bureaucrats to one of selfless service by servant supporters? and,
  3. Will McDonald shift the VA’s massive resources from unproductive DC-area bureaucracy out to the hospitals and clinics in the field, and provide some way for those vets not near a facility to be treated?

If you’ve been reading this blog (or if you’re a cynic), you can probably answer those questions correctly. Thing is, McDonald could be a hero, or he could be a bum like Shinseki and Gibson, and it just won’t matter. He can’t do any of those things. His hands are tied.

His hands are tied by Congress (yes, the selfsame Congress that will crucify him on C-SPAN the moment the next inevitable crisis hits or scandal is exposed). His hands are tied by his own army of counterproductive VA Lawyers. And his hands are tied by sweetheart employment contracts with pinky-ring union bosses. He could be the man of the greatest competence and best will in the entire world, and he’s still going in to a task where we have no problem already calling him a failure.

The rest of the press will catch up with us in due course. Sorry about that, Bob.

White House: Hey, anyone notice the VA’s AFU?

VA-veterans-affairsAnd they found it has a “corrosive culture.” Gee, ya think? Basically, the report written by the President’s designated fix-it guy, not a manager but a political operative, says all the same stuff about the VA that veterans have been saying for years, while the White House and VA management have been singing, “La la la la la we can’t heeeear you!”

But now they find it has a “corrosive culture” and “systematic problems.” No $#!+, Sherlock. Or as John McClane might say, “Welcome to the party, pal.”

The report written by Rob Nabors, the president’s deputy chief of staff… says the agency needs to take “significant further action” to address “systematic problems” with providing health service for former service members.

“It is clear that there are significant and chronic systemic failures that must be addressed by the leadership at the VA,” Nabors says in his report, presented to President Obama on Friday.

Nabors deems a 14-day scheduling standard, which requires VA hospitals not to allow patients more than two weeks to see a doctor, “arbitrary, ill-defined, and misunderstood.”

He writes that the 14-day goal was “unrealistic” and is a “poor indicator of either patient satisfaction or quality of care.”

The report also finds that a lack of “transparency or accountability” within the VHA leadership structure led to an “inability to effectively manage or communicate to employees or veterans.”

It said “cumbersome and outdated” technology complicated the scheduling of patient care, and that an “inability to clearly articulate budgetary needs” resulted in key shortages of certain types of specialists.

The VA also conducted little planning for anticipated demographic changes of veterans, including increases in female veterans, mental health needs, and a surge of younger veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

via WH report finds ‘corrosive culture’ at VA | TheHill.

The report got the usual Friday scandal-hour dump to friendly media. It does not appear to have been posted to the White House website, or by any of its media recipients, but the White House does have a “Readout” of a meeting between the President, Nabors, and Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson, the guy who’s promised all VA wrongdoers immunity. It’s here. Here are a few things they’re promising:

  • Initiating reforms to improve access to care
  • Increasing transparency.
  • Protecting whistleblowers.

These would be OK if there was any real indication they’re doing them, but we’re skeptical (that’ll shock you, we’re sure). Specifically:

  • Information in the media about Nabors’s solutions suggests that his way of “improving access to care” is simply to change the 14-day appointment standard to a 90-day one, or none at all. Bingo! No more late appointments. Forgive if we think getting to this point by redefining “late” is bogus and lawyerly, but then again, all these asshats (the President, the Acting Secretary, the Hatchet Man) are lawyers so what were we expecting?
  • How do you think they’re increasing transparency? Hold on to your hats — they have promised us a website. That’s the answer to everything with this gang — load up some words on the TelePrompTer and launch a website, problem solved! They’ll be practically blogging the revolution, because they’ve promised to update VA.gov/health as often as twice a month. Whether it needs it or not! (The only updates posted are of the waiting lists, data we know to be contaminated and partly falsified).
  • No concrete action at all has been taken on protecting whistleblowers, let alone restoring the jobs and privileges that the VA’s punitive approach to what it sees institutionally as “snitching” have stripped from some of these people. Instead, the President and Gibson have read empty speeches about how angry they are.

Angry? These losers have no idea.

SMG History on the Block: German MP18-1

Here’s a true piece of submachine gun history: a German MP.18–1 submachine gun, a very early, first-generation, Bergmann-built Hugo Schmeisser design.

MP18-1 left

Schmeisser was the son of designer Louis Schmeisser, who also worked at Bergmann and created the early Bergmann auto pistols. Hugo is one of the true greats of 20th Century weapons design in his own right, but, oddly enough, he is credited more in the popular mind for a gun he didn’t design, the MP 40, than the many guns he did, including the revolutionary MP.18. We’ll explain below how that probably came to pass.

Discounting the curious and tactically unsound Villar–Perosa, the first real submachine gun was the MP.18. (Maxim produced a model only in the late 19th Centuryl he didn’t follow up). It was blowback-operated and fired in full-automatic only (at a rather low rate of fire, thanks to heavy reciprocating parts). The weakness of the MP18, apart from its weight and cost of manufacture, was its magazine feed: it used the 32 round snail drum of the Artillery Luger. (A snail “drum” is not a true drum, exactly, but a box magazine oriented in a spiral to save space. It’s very tricky to design). The snail drum was awkward, hard to load, heavy, and made the MP18 unwieldy, but the gun still proved its worth in the hands of German Storm Troops in the last year of the Great War.

MP18-1 right

After the war, Schmeisser patented an original design for a 20-round double-column single-feed magazine and a suitable magazine housing (the patent was not filed in the USA until 1931, possibly due to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles). This gun is one of the 20-round versions.

Schmeisser US1833862-2 According to Small Arms of the World by Smith and Ezell, these guns were not new production, but were modified by Haenel, and (several other sources suggest that Bergmann lost its production facilities at war’s end, and continued only as a design shop). Some online sources assert that during the war, Schmeisser’s double-column mag had been rejected by the Army in favor of the snail drum, officially the “Trommelmagazin 08″ or TM08, that was already in production for the Artillery pistol. We haven’t seen a definitive source that says that Schmeisser’s stick mag was ready for prime time in 1918.

This gun on offer is one of those postwar MP.18-1s with the 20-round box mag.  Its condition is amazing for a nearly-century-old weapon an ocean away from its home:

MP18-1 right2

This is a excellent German MP18.1 that I have had for a long time. It is in beautiful original condition as you can see by the pictures. It is all matching except for the bolt. The bore is excellent and shiny. It has all the original finish and is NOT re-blued. The magazine housing is marked S.B.848 and the stock is marked “1920” so I’m sure that it was used in the Weimar as a Police Weapon.

MP18-1 b

The “1920” marking was applied to all Reichswehr (the Weimar Republic’s 100,000-man rump army) weapons when a postwar law banned automatic weapons for the general public. (This early German gun control law was to lead to greater things, but let’s not digress).

It is on a form 3 and is fully transferable on a form 4, though it can NOT be transferred on a C&R. If you have any question or need more pictures please ask.

via German MP18 1 9mm MP18-1 : Machine Guns at GunBroker.com.

The MP.18 was redesigned by Hugo Schmeisser into a slightly improved version, the MP.28, which had a selector switch. It continued in production, spawning many variants. The Schmeisser designs went on to be extremely influential, as well as to serve in many other wars, including the Spanish Civil War, the Sino-Japanese Wars leading up to World War II (including in Chinese-copy versions), and of course in World War II, where it was often found in the hands of the SS. It also inspired the British Lanchester, a fairly direct copy of the MP.28 which actually could use MP 18 and 28 box magazines, although the Lanchester also had 32 and 50 round magazines of its own. This makes the MP 18 not only the progenitor of all submachineguns, but also the granddaddy of the Sten. The Japanese Type 100 was also a modified copy of the MP.28, a weapon the Japanese had encountered in Chinese hands. The Finnish Suomi and Russian PPD also were inspired to one extent or another by the German design, and the.

Schmeisser’s box magazine design was patented, as shown above, and was widely used in subsequent guns. It’s generally accepted that the misnomer “Schmeisser” for the MP40 came about because many MP38 and MP40 magazines were marked with “Schmeisser D.R.P.” (Deutsches Reich Patent) in recognition of this patent.

The gun is extremely durable. The receiver is machined from a thick tube, unlike the thin tubes common in Second World War submachine guns. The bolt likewise is machined from a single block of steel. The weapon fires from an open bolt, automatic only, although experience makes single shots possible. The original WWI versions had no manual safety. This one has a bolt notch safety. (All open-bolt SMGs are only safe with a mag out, period, unless the safety locks the bolt forward on an empty chamber. A safety like this just instills false confidence).

MP18-1 right3

Mullin notes that, other things being equal, a full-stocked SMG always provides a better firing platform than a folding or sliding stock. We concur. Sliding stocks have had something of a renaissance due to body armor, but for the recreational shooter an early subgun like an MP.18 (or a Thompson for that matter) is a joy to shoot.

MP18-1 broken open

While the operating system of the gun was very simple, the internals were not. The bolt was driven by a telescoping spring guide/firing pin mechanism clearly antecedent to that of the later Vollmer designs that would culminate in the MP40. What killed the MP.18 and its successors in the end was the difficulty and expense of machining its solid steel parts. Second-generation submachine guns would have stamped, die-cast, and other parts taking advantage of improvements in 20th Century automotive mass-production industrial processes.

MP18-1 stripped

We’ve used more of the pictures than we usually do in these auction reports, because this is such a gorgeous, unmolested original gun. If we hadn’t just taken a huge income hit (thank you, ISIL), we’d be on this like a lawyer on an ambulance.

Because the MP.18 isn’t as sexy as later guns, it’s unlikely to be bid up anywhere near Thompson, BAR or M16 territory, and might even sell down in the Sten price range. But this gun is a true piece of history. Its next owner will have something to be proud of, and it may turn out to be a good investment. (Personally, we don’t “invest” in anything subject to corrosion, although we’ve been known to delude ourselves that we did that).

After this, you might want more information on this rare and historic firearm. There’s a minimal write-up in most editions of Small Arms of the World. In the 11th Edition it begins on p. 338. (The book, not the unrelated Small Arms of the World website. There’s probably a good writeup on the website, too, but we’ve been locked out by login problems over the last few weeks… we hope to get them resolved today. SAW’s technical staff have been very helpful). There’s a better writeup, but scarcely a thorough one, in Hobart, on pp. 116-117.

How does the MP.18 stack up today? Mullin’s verdict in The Fighting Submachine Gun: A Hands-on Evaluation was:

The M1918 feels like a good, sturdy, long-lasting weapon. It does have a few drawbacks to it (such as weight and slam-firing bolt-design defects), but once modified to a standard box design, it has all the features necessary to make an effective SMG with very few that are superfluous to the job. This is quite a compliment to those original German designers back in 1918.

Peterson (p. 151) suggests that the gun may be worth $17,000 to $22,500, depending on whether you call its condition “very good” or “excellent”; a snail-drum wartime gun would be worth only 10% more. No one has bid on this gun, at $13,500 opening bid and no reserve. What’s up with that?

Sources: 

Hobart, FWA, Pictorial History of the Sub-machine Gun

Mullin, T. The Fighting Submachine Gun: A Hands-on Evaluation.

Peterson, P. Standard Catalog of Military Firearms: The Collector’s Price and Reference Guide. 

Smith, WHB and Ezell, EC, Small Arms of the World, any edition.

A very good photo thread on the MP.18 and successors at Accurate Reloading: http://forums.accuratereloading.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/7811043/m/589109167/

Note that there are a couple of errors and unsupported statements in the photo thread.

 

A Little Gun with Big Consequences

His last words were, “It is nothing.” But he was terribly wrong.

Even as badly maintained and pitted as it is, this FN M1910 Browning in .380 ACP has the classic lines John M. Browning designed into it over a century ago. It’s still a not-bad choice for a backup or concealed carry pistol, although most of them are in the hands of collectors. Not many collectors would want one in as terrible and pitted condition as this one, but then, this is not just “one.” It’s “the” pistol that fired the shots that ended the Age of Kings, mortally wounding Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Habsburg Dual Monarchy and his wife Sophie.  That assassination, by a Bosnian Serb pan-Slavic nationalist named Gavrilo Princip, led Austria to threaten Serbia (which had sponsored the assassination, providing this gun and other arms) with invasion. The Austrian threat produced a Russian counterthreat, a German counter-counterthreat, and Franco-British agreement to stand by their treaty obligations to Russia — if it came to that.

Gavrilo Princips Browning 1910

In the end, as we all know, it did come to that, to the detriment of nations and of generations.

Franz Ferdinand was an important figure. For one thing, the Emperor and King, Franz Josef, was old and unwell, and FF was his designated heir (he himself came to the position through tragedy, when the then-heir, his cousin Rudolf, committed suicide in 1889). From then, Franz Ferdinand was ready to take the reins. No one in the Habsburg court had thought out the fate of the monarchy beyond that, except that Franz Ferdinand’s and Sophie’s children were not eligible — their marriage was a love match between unequals, and so morganatic, a dynastic term meaning the kids’ blood was permanently attainted with the non-royalness of Sophie. It was only after the murder of FF and Sophie that Franz Josef began preparing Franz Ferdinand’s nephew Charles, who had been enjoying himself as an Army officer, for national leadership. They didn’t have long, as Franz Josef passed away in 1916, catapulting Charles onto the dual throne. All these consequences from a few pistol shots!

The murder is described in a book called Sarajevo, quoted at length in Wikipedia:

One bullet pierced Franz Ferdinand’s neck while the other pierced Sophie’s abdomen. … As the car was reversing (to go back to the Governor’s residence because the entourage thought the Imperial couple were unhurt) a thin streak of blood shot from the Archduke’s mouth onto Count Harrach’s right cheek (he was standing on the car’s running board). Harrach drew out a handkerchief to still the gushing blood. The Duchess, seeing this, called: “For Heaven’s sake! What happened to you?” and sank from her seat, her face falling between her husband’s knees.

Harrach and Potoriek … thought she had fainted … only her husband seemed to have an instinct for what was happening. Turning to his wife despite the bullet in his neck, Franz Ferdinand pleaded: “Sopherl! Sopherl! Sterbe nicht! Bleibe am Leben für unsere Kinder! – Sophie dear! Don’t die! Stay alive for our children!” Having said this, he seemed to sag down himself. His plumed hat … fell off; many of its green feathers were found all over the car floor. Count Harrach seized the Archduke by the uniform collar to hold him up. He asked “Leiden Eure Kaiserliche Hoheit sehr? – Is Your Imperial Highness suffering very badly?” “Es ist nichts. – It is nothing.” said the Archduke in a weak but audible voice. He seemed to be losing consciousness during his last few minutes, but, his voice growing steadily weaker, he repeated the phrase perhaps six or seven times more.

A rattle began to issue from his throat, which subsided as the car drew in front of the Konak bersibin (Town Hall). Despite several doctors’ efforts, the Archduke died shortly after being carried into the building while his beloved wife was almost certainly dead from internal bleeding before the motorcade reached the Konak.

It took about a month of cabled threats and ultimata, and then it was game on. Game would stay on for the next four-plus years, ending with Northern France and Belgium in ruins, Russia in an unholy revolution that brought forth a new Dark Age across Eurasia, Britain and Germany spent, with the cream of their youth interred in distant fields — if their remains were found at all. The last unconstrained kings in Europe were gone, Nicholas II and his whole family shot down like dogs, and Wilhelm II and his whole family in comfortable, if bitter, exile. Accidental king Charles I of Austria-Hungary died shortly after his family’s exile to Portugal.

But hey, the Serbs got their Serbian-dominated pan-Slavic Balkan nation.

Princip didn’t live to see it. He died soon after being sentenced to 20 years (the enlightened Habsburg were soft on crime, especially when committed by yout’s — Princip was 20), of complications from TB.

In the end, of course, Yugoslavia was short-lived, as nations go. It would be torn apart by civil war started by another malignant Serb, but that’s another story. (And against those two monsters, the Serbs did give us Nikola Tesla, so their accounts balance, unless you ask Edison).

The murder weapon fell, with a collection of Franz Ferdinand and Sophia artifacts and ephemera, into the hands of a priest, who dreamed of helping Austria-Hungary establish a museum in the memory of the murdered royal. But he hadn’t reckoned on Austria-Hungary and the dual monarchy themselves falling to the continental cataclysm that would extinguish as many hopes as it did lives over the next years. On his death, it passed to his order, and a group of Catholic monks had no real use for it, and no idea of how to get rid of it, so they hung on to it until quite recently. They didn’t take care of it, and it rusted deeply and badly. In time, the religious order passed the old father’s Franz Ferdinand collection to a museum in Vienna, perhaps fulfilling some portion of the late priest’s earthly desire.

There is something that draws one’s eyes to this Browning. It’s just a gun, just a tool. But the unintended consequences of the few shots this old gun fired should remind all of us never to shoot without due consideration.

One wonders what Gavrilo Princip would say about that.

Hat tip, John Richardson, who said:

If you don’t think the .380 Auto aka 9mm Browning isn’t a powerful round, show me another pistol cartridge that was used to start a world war. For it was with a FN Model 1910 chambered in .380 Auto (or 9mm Browning to be more precise) that Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg 100 years ago today in Sarajevo.

via No Lawyers – Only Guns and Money.

Slow-Moving Sunday

You know that old Simon and Garfunkel song that starts off, “Slow down, you move too fast”? Our objective for today is to make sure that nobody has any cause that song to us. We’re going to move slow. Were going to do very, very little. We’re gonna get honked at by snails and turtles (and we would, by the US Mail, if it were running… er, ambulating… today), as if we were the Winnebago on the hilly road of life.

We’re going to recover from the fly-in yesterday and all the other stuff we did yesterday, like resurrect a dead car and finish a product for a government client.

We have no further ambitions than maybe posting yesterday’s missed Saturday Matinee and cooking something for dinner. We’re not even going to the range.

Tomorrow starts the crazy anew.  That’s soon enough.

Breaking: Two Heads Roll at Veterans Affairs

Robert Jesse, MD, too hip to have a flag in his official photo.

Robert Jesse, MD, too hip to have a flag in his official photo.

There are finally some consequences, apart from the lost bonus and now months-long paid vacation of the head of the Phoenix VAMC, whose bonus-grubbing killed somewhere between 40 and 100 veterans. Two VA satraps voluntarily stepped down, and VA trickled the announcement out during the traditional Friday Night graveyard of scandalous revelations, although the media seem to have had it in advance, whereupon most of them sat on it. The online newspaper Christian Science Monitor:

Robert Jesse, the current acting undersecretary for health, will complete his four-year term as principal deputy undersecretary for health on July 2, the Veterans’ Affairs department said in a statement. In addition, Will Gunn, the department’s general counsel, has resigned.

The undersecretary for health leads the programs of the Veterans’ Health Administration, which runs the sprawling VA health system. Outrage erupted when it became known that officials hid that veterans were being made to wait for lengthy periods to get primary medical care and that in some cases those delays led to deaths.

via Two senior Veterans Affairs officials step down – CSMconitor.com.

Both of them were deeply implicated in the ongoing coverups of the cash-for-neglect scandal; Jesse, who replaced Robert Petzel who had also earned deserved vilification in these pages, had tried to bury the news of a legionella outbreak in Pittsburgh, caused by corner-cutting and neglect, that killed six vets and sickened 19 more; and then he testified falsely to Congress about it in 2012, after the VA news blackout on the year-old epidemic leaked out. Petzel was also involved in that cover-up, and retired under Congressional and media fire in May 2014, giving Jesse the bump up. (What are they going to do, promote an honest, patient-oriented executive? Where would they find him?)

Jesse blamed an underling for his false testimony, but the underling, if any, also got the benefit of the VA’s culture of nonaccountability. Pittsburgh Tribune:

The House VA committee’s chairman, Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., pressed Jesse on whether he disciplined the person who prepared his testimony before Congress since the information was incorrect.
Jesse said he did not know whether that person knew about the report, either.

His defense was pettifogging:

“The testimony is true. It’s not complete, but it is true,” Jesse said.

Like, “Blackbeard was a noted mariner,” or, “Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow shared an affinity for the banking industry.”  The committee chairman didn’t buy it:

“Today’s VA is a case study in how to stonewall the press, the public and Congress,” Miller stated. “Dr. Jesse’s answers today — or lack thereof — regarding misleading testimony he provided to our committee in February of 2013 did nothing to dispel this notion.”

Actually, it’s more a case study in extending Steve Jobs’s famous aphorism that, “A players hire A players. B players hire C players.” The VA staff is whom the C players hire. CBS notes that Jesse was an acting replacement for Petzel, and that:

President Obama sought to replace Petzel with Jeffrey Murawsky, the health care chief for the VA’s Chicago-based regional office. Murawsky withdrew his nomination after allegations that one Chicago hospital he oversees used a secret list to conceal long patient waiting times.

It’s patient-killing barbers and bums all the way down. Well, what do you expect? The guy was from Chicongo.

Will A. Gunn, JD, who served loyally -- if you insert "Al-Qaeda" before "loyally."

Will A. Gunn, JD, who served loyally — if you insert “Al-Qaeda” before “loyally.”

We haven’t forgotten the other bum that snuck off the premises by sundown yesterday, Will Gunn. Gunn, the General Counsel, was an Obama Administration political appointee, after serving as a high-profile defense attorney for Guantanamo detainees. While nominally a veteran, as an Air Force officer Gunn had only served as a lawyer since he was a junior lieutenant. He went to the Supreme Court with the proposition that Al-Qaeda terrorists on the battlefield ought to be treated at least as well as America’s coddled criminal class — and won.

Gunn was deeply involved in all the past and pending cover-ups, and one of the key players in retaliation against whistleblowers. Gunn was one of six VA officials subpoenaed in May for involvement in the cover-up of a spreadsheet-based secret wait list, according to the New York Times. The officials destroyed the wait list and all copies and backups to prevent its revelation to Congress and the media. His only supporter remaining in Congress had been Vermont Socialist Bernie Sanders, who argues that the VA still provides the greatest good for the greatest number, and the neglected and dead are of no consequence.

The two have been replaced by two other career VA drones, back to the CSM article:

Carolyn Clancy, the agency’s assistant deputy undersecretary for health, will take [Jesse’s] place and be named the interim undersecretary for health, the VA said.

Principal Deputy General Counsel Tammy Kennedy will serve as acting general counsel, the agency said.

Both have been involved in the ongoing cover-ups, and Kennedy has been involved in punishing whistleblowers. But if you’re the VA, that’s a feature, not a bug. Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson:

Dr. Clancy will be charged with the department’s top priority – getting veterans off of wait lists and in to see their doctors. She will also lead our efforts on immediate, national reforms to accelerate access to care and restore trust among our veterans.

Of course, Gibson is the guy who made it clear that his constituency was the VA’s employees, and that none of them need fear dismissal or even loss of a bonus on his watch. (Note that both of these were voluntary resignations, probably to lawyer up in anticipation of a criminal probe after Eric Holder retracts top cover or is replaced in 2017).

We have an opinion on this, but let’s just quote Pete Hegseth of Concerned Veterans of America, a Republican-leaning veterans group:

Forced resignations are step one; criminal prosecutions should be step two. While we are glad to hear that Acting Secretary Gibson is finally relieving these two top officials of their duties, it will not stop there.

The Justice Department must now follow through with criminal prosecutions against any official whose negligence or ineptitude led to the preventable deaths of veterans awaiting basic care at VA clinics nationwide. True accountability is not just a buzzword.

Hell, at VA it’s not even a buzzword.

 

 

From Infantry Company to… Hurling Team?

That’s what a bunch of New Hampshire National Guard soldiers did to try to keep the comradeship alive after a stint in Iraq in 2004-05. They took up the little-known (in America) Irish team sport of hurling, which if nothing else is great high-intensity PT.

Part 1:

Part 2:

It’s nice to have a military story to report that isn’t about Secretary Hagel establishing quotas for pedophiles, Congress zeroing out the ammo budget, or the President deploying guys because some 26-year-old speechwriter thinks it’s a good idea, and then leaving them hanging.

Hat tip, an Irish friend who’s been trying to explain hurling to us for about a year. Oddly enough, we think we served in SF with a relative of the officer in the video (who goes from CPT to LTC thanks to the magic of editing eight years of film down to a half hour.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So make hay while the gun shines….

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

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

Hat tip, The Gun Wire.

“Mini-Me, you complete me.” – the TSA

Not hard to figure out who’s the villain here, as little actor Vern Troyer, best known for his role in the Austin Powers films, gets the blue-gloves-where-the-sun-don’t-shine treatment from the fine folks at the TSA:

verntroyer_gets_groped

 

For crying out loud, he’s just an actor who played an evil guy. (He’s probably a perfectly nice fellow in person). Does this mean they’re waterboarding Sacha Baron Cohen for the secrets of the nuclear WMD programs of Wadiya?

Well, it is the TSA. No one good, decent, honest, competent, moral or ethical has ever been employed at TSA in any capacity whatsoever.