Monthly Archives: June 2014

When guns are outlawed only outlaws will have scissors… and hammers.

outlaw hammerCause there’s always got to be hammers, it seems. In any event, you can kind of sympathize with the murderer here, if her story is true.

A Chinese woman cut of her former boyfriend’s penis with a pair of scissors and then beat him to death with a hammer after he allegedly raped her and slapped their daughter.

Yeung Ki, 41, admitted to killing piano teacher Zhou Hui, 32, back in 2012. However, she claimed she is not guilty of murder during her trial.

A court heard that Zhou allegedly “beat her, pushed her to the floor, and slapped their daughter” before he “forcibly had sex with her, the South China Morning Post reports. The killing occurred later that night.

via Woman Gets Seriously Savage Revenge on the Man She Says Raped Her and Hit Their Daughter | TheBlaze.com.

So then she drugged him in his food, cut his Johnson off and flushed it down the toilet. And when the pain woke him, beat a tattoo on his skull with a hammer.

Looking back on it, she seems to have had second thoughts about the, er, “low circumcision.” Per the HuffPo:

“I cut it,” she told a social worker. “I think it was cruel.”

Ya think?

Schumer Hammer 2Funny how even in gun-restricted Communist China, full of law-abiding, Confucian-culture Chinese folks, there are still murders.

Makes you wonder whether the Mike Bloombergs, Mark Kellys, Chuck “the Hammer” Schumers, and other folks who would solve American crime problems by importing Red Chinese gun laws and police methods, are really on to something, or if they just keep hammering on a grave error.

Why SOG RTs Ran Without Medics

SF_CrestIn our review of Gentle Propositions by JS Economos, we mentioned in passing that one of the myriad details Economos got right was, “why not many medics ran recon.” This stirred a little discussion in the comments, with Medic 09 (a former IDF medic) asking:

[Y]ou piqued my curiosity to ask for a spoiler (as a once-recon-medic from elsewhere): why don’t (didn’t) many medics do recon? I suspect today things are different?

Vietnam SF vet Tom Schultz replied:

In response to Medico 09 can only remark on my unit at my time. (VN68) Medics in too short supply and bluntly had skills and training too valuable to be risked on a recon team. Nothing to complete a successful recon requires any medical training. We had no shortage of a medics volunteering to do so but they ere always turned down. When the shit hit the fan, though they were the first on the ‘go get ‘em’ chopper.

That was more or less what Economos had said, and we elaborated (some typos corrected):

As Tom has already noted, medics were in short supply in SF in Vietnam, including in SOG. Medics were needed in several critical missions, including in the dispensary at the FOB (generating healthy teams to launch on recon was the main mission of the FOBs), as “chase medic” on helicopters (having an SF medic on the bird saved many a life), or sometimes standing “bright light” alert (although this last was often done by Recon Teams without medics).

SF Medics were not only in short supply in SOG, but in every time period in SF history. The reason is the medic course (once 91BxS, now 18Dx) is the longest and hardest MOS course in Group, not excepting the officer course (actually one of the easier MOS phases) or the operations and intelligence course (now the 18F intel course) which has usually been reserved for soldiers who already have a base SF MOS. The medic course is ~18 months long (and always was) and is demanding in terms of intellect required, effort required, and ability to master specific skills. SF guys are all special (it says so right on their uniform shoulders now!) but the docs are really special.

Now under the Joint SOF Medic Training schema all SOF medics get trauma medicine equivalent to the SF medic’s. But the SF guy also gets communicable disease, epidemiology, and many other specialties that are required in the UW environment and not in direct ground combat. Most every medic will treat a combat wound, but the SF guy also has to diagnose and treat cholera!

Secret CommandosAgain, that’s based not so much on what Economos wrote but on what we’ve heard from scores of guys who were there running recon, and that’s why it impressed us that Economos, who as far as we know is not an SF, let alone SOG, vet, knew that.

But we happened to get even more corroboration, from someone who should know: LTC (Ret). Fred S. Lindsey. Lindset has written a remarkably thorough book, one of the life’s work variety, about CCS, called Secret Green Beret Commandos in Cambodia. Here’s what Lindsey (whom we don’t know personally) says about medics and RTs, after introducing the CCS Medical Section and its duties to care for the roughly 1,000 men of the FOB and the indigenous men’s family members:

We are fortunate to have SGT. Don McIver’s fine memory to describe the details of the medical staff and the facilities. He notes the following upon his arrival in late July 69. “Changes in the mission and responsibilities of the medics had changed in recent months. Two medics were KIA on recon missions, at least one of which involved the medic serving on a recon team. It was SFC Jerry Shriver’s team that was wiped out in Cambodia on 24 April and medic SGT Ernest C. Jamison was KIA on that mission. Only three weeks later on 23 May, another medic, SGT Howard S. Hill, was KIA on another mission. Word came down from the Tactical Operations Center (TOC): no more medics on Recon; they are too valuable and too few. In a sense this was correct. Medical Specialist training lasted 42 weeks with tactics and techniques phase 1 and phase 2 adding another four weeks onto each end of the training cycle. Weapons, Communications, Operations and Intelligence, Engineers: each of these MOS-specific courses lasted 16 to 18 weeks plus the T&T’s tacked on. Less than a third of medics who started the course finished including those who may have been “recycled” to begin a particular course of study again and to graduate with the next class. It was estimated in 1968 that it cost $130,000 to training SF medic! In my experience, I was in the Army for 18 months before finally completing my training – Basic through the Q Course – before being assigned to the 7th Group.” ….

“With only nine medics and the prohibition against medics going on Recon missions, medical supervisor SFC [Jerry L.]Prentner begin reorganizing the medical clinic, commonly called the dispensary, and medic duties…. Schedules were made to allow medics to serve in three equal capacities: (1) Dispensary duty including sick call, emergencies, and patient treatment and ward supervision; (2) ground operations with the two company-sized Hatchet Forces (one with Montagnard troops, the other with Cambodians); (three) flying Chase Medic for either the MLSN or MLSS [Mission Launch Site North/South -Ed.]. The Chase Medic rode in the first evacuation helicopter or Slick, because that helicopter usually picked up the wounded. Those assigned North typically flew out of BMT [Ban Me Thuot –Ed.]. Those assigned South would stay at the MLSS at Quan Loi for periods of the week to a month or more. That’s where we earned our “air miles” for Air Medals (if we were counting!), inserted and pulled out Recon teams on “hot” and “cold” extractions, and got our “emergency medical treatment” experience treating the wounded. No lack of excitement for the medics!”

Lindsey notes that the Chase Medics on the helicopters often deserved, but seldom received, valor awards. Here’s his explanation:

Our medics were unbelievably heroic and professionally qualified. I would not have hesitated to have them remove my appendix, if the case warranted. Their heroics in the field, especially in the Chase Medic role, were very impressive. Unfortunately and shamefully, our medics did not get nearly the valor award recognition that they deserve. CCS was very poor in this regard, including when I was the CO. We were just so damn busy fighting the war over a 200+ mile border frontage. Always a fire to put out or crash to recover. Part of that problem was that the aviators seldom knew who the SF guy was riding along with them. They wrote up all the crewmembers for tons of awards that were well deserved, but very seldom a recommendation for the Chase Medic. That was most often done by the Launch Officer who was on the forward support site (FSS) duty that day, who rode along in the C&C ship. Likewise, the medic seldom knew who the pilots and gunners were in their chopper. Everyone rotated. Though belated and insufficient, we hope that our book will help give them proper recognition.

As you might surmise, we find Lindsey’s book a treasure trove of valuable information. There is a great deal of errata to the book posted at http://www.ccs-sog.org/, also.

Napoleonic Flintlocks Rise from Watery Grave

Napoleon & Sphinx-Jean-Léon_Gérôme_003Alexandria, Egypt, is a bustling, modern third-world city with few visible reminders of its past. But many archeological treasures in Alex have been spared the assault of the bulldozer and cement mixer — because they’re under water. This includes anything from Alexander’s time, later sculptures and other artefacts from the Ptolemaic dynasty of Hellenized Alexandria, and then, some reminders of later colonizers from the 19th and 20th Centuries.

This cannon is part of the scattered wreck of the burnt and sunken flagship L'Oriente.

This cannon is part of the scattered wreck of the burnt and sunken flagship L’Oriente.

Napoleon’s ill-fated 1798-1801 campaign in Egypt at first brought him land victories, and booty aplenty, some of which is still in Paris. But the French Navy was a perennial 2nd Place finisher vis-a-vis the Royal Navy, and in an 1801 battle at Aboukir Bay, the results were cataclysmic for the French: only recently has the sequence of the disaster, in which an anchored French squadron was caught napping by Horatio Nelson’s British fleet, been decoded from the clues available in the Frenchmen’s wrecks.

But the ship in question here is not one of the ill-fated ships of the line or frigates from the Battle of the Nile. It’s unclear whether the ship in question, yclept Le Patriot, was military or commercial, but it was probably commercial as there was another ship named Le Patriot in the French Navy — and not in Egypt. We don’t even know who sank Le Patriot What we do know is that the shipwreck on the sands of Alexandria Bay has yielded a lot of flintlock-era small arms, like this:

napoleon_pistol

As you can see, the arms are somewhat the worse for wear after a couple of centuries in salt water. There may be nothing holding this flintlock pistol together but the encroachments of sea life.

Here’s a similarly rough long gun:

napoleon_musket

Russian underwater excavators, working in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, have found dozens of 18th century firearms near Alexandria’s harbour during an underwater search for sunken ships.

Divers with Napoleon guns

The weapons are believed to date back to the 18th century when Napoleon led an expedition to Egypt to protect French trade interests, undermine British access to India, and establish scientific enterprise in Egypt, Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh El Damaty said

Discovered Napoleon weapons from sunken ship Patriot by Luxor Times 2

El Damaty said the sunken French artillery was once on board “Le Patriot”, a ship in Napoleon’s fleet that sank near the eastern harbour of Alexandria.

The site lies close to Pharos Island, once the home of Alexandria’s ancient lighthouse, which was considered one of the seven ancient Wonders of the World. It was the third longest surviving ancient structure of the world, until it was destroyed by earthquakes in the first millennium. The rubble was later used by the Mamlukes to build Alexandria’s Citadel of Qaitbay.

El Damaty said the discovery opens the door for more research into this era.

For now, the artillery has been sent to the Restoration Centre at the Grand Egyptian Museum for further study and restoration, he said.

via Napoleon’s sunken artillery recovered from Alexandria harbour – Daily News Egypt.

A friend of ours who’s an archaeologist of sorts has a kind of mantra that he swears by: “There is always something left.”

French arms of the Napoleonic period were the equal of those of any other nation in the world, but like their peers, they had no corrosion protection to speak of, which makes stabilizing the recovered guns a very critical matter, or they’ll soon, if left out of water, flake away to nothing.

Live Free or Live in Massachusetts: Fireworks Ban

fireworks_imageYou have to admit, they didn’t just go Nanny, they went Full Nanny. Among the things banned in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts are those deadly weapons, fireworks. Firecrackers, roman candles, even sparklers: the state’s authorities live in dread that some Bay State bairn might grow up without irrational fear of these, and so they enforce a ban with a heavy hand.

If you want fireworks, Peasant, you can go to the Boston 4th of July display, or you can bootleg your own from New Hampshire (which is also, thanks to lower prices and no sales tax, the best place for a Bay State subject to buy almost anything else). Indeed, if you just want to see fireworks, there’s a display nearly as good as Boston’s July 4th display every Wednesday at Hampton Beach, and on the 4th NH goes all-out. (Of course, Boston bluenoses find Hampton trashy, their word for blue-collar).

But the Commonwealth is working a two-edged campaign against fireworks scofflaws, and fireworks control promises to be effective as Boston’s gun control, which has disarmed everyone except any armed criminals.

Massachusetts’ Department of Transportation is helping law enforcement officials get the word out to motorists to not break the law by bringing fireworks into or through the state, State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan said in a statement issued last week.

You may have seen MassDOT message boards displaying a message over the weekend reminding motorists that fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts – the boards will have that same message June 27-29 and July 3-6.

When state and local police making a motor vehicle stop also discover fireworks, they are required to confiscate the fireworks. In addition, there are fines for the illegal possession and for the sale of fireworks.

via Massachusetts State Agencies Warn Motorists against Transporting Illegal Fireworks into the State – Police & Fire – Hingham, MA Patch.

The “informational” campaign is not always honest — for example, the State tells people their homeowners insurance doesn’t cover them, but insurers admit it does — but it’s not their only campaign. They also target MA plates returning south from NH border crossings for stops, searching for fireworks with trumped-up probable cause or none at all. (They also seize booze bought in cheaper NH. The State Troopers usually manage to leave the booze off their reports and it’s never seen again. Any guesses?)

And in past years, they’ve even surveilled fireworks businesses in border towns, reporting MA plates back to waiting State Police, not all of whom would rather hassle fireworks buyers than support public safety, but they have to do what they’re told.

So how dangerous are fireworks, anyway? Well, the Fed actually collects that data, through the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The most recent data’s from 2012, and the methodology is pretty questionable (they pulled data from “news clippings and other sources,” for example), but you gotta dance with the data you came with.

In 2012, there were six fireworks fatalities to nonprofessionals nationwide. To put that in perspective, there were 28 deaths from lightning strikes (and the NOAA data seems incomplete). The kinds of fireworks deaths were of interest, though:

In the first incident, a 17-year-old male died of injuries sustained when a sparkler bomb that he and his friend made exploded. In the second incident, a 30-year-old male died of severe facial injuries six days after a mortar- type of firework ignited in his face. In the third incident, a 26-year-old male perished when an illegal 1.3G aerial firework device1 exploded. In the fourth incident, a 60-year-old male died of blunt force trauma when a homemade firework detonated unexpectedly. In the fifth incident, a 30-year-old male suffered severe injuries when explosions destroyed his house while he was making illegal fireworks, and he succumbed five days later. In the sixth incident, a 61-year-old male died at the scene when he ignited a professional-grade firework device while holding its fuse.

Of these, only the second incident seems to have possibly been with a user of over-the-counter fireworks. The others involve Darwin paying a visit to those abusing professional fireworks or trying to kitbash their own. At a certain level, you are not making an illegal firework, you are making an illegal explosive, and you are treading on ground regulated by the BATFE. (Remember the E?).

The CPSC estimates 8,700 ER visits, but the most common injury was burned hands, and 85% of those injured were treated in the ER and not admitted to the hospital. However, when the CPSC investigated what they thought were the 38 most serious injuries from recreational fireworks, they found some of the flaws in their data: one of them was an injury to a fireworks professional, and three more weren’t even fireworks-related. So that’s a data-rot level of 10.6% right from the beginning.

Of the 34 serious fireworks injuries, most expected full recovery, and most were, like the fatalities, from abusing the products. Imagine that. Most injuries of all kinds were caused by firecrackers, sparklers, and bottle rockets. The premium multiple-tube fireworks and novelties that are the bread-and-butter of NH fireworks shops accounted for less than 10% of injuries.

Massachusetts is one of only four states that still bans consumer fireworks. The nationwide trend is towards liberalization of laws, and in New England, NH has liberalized already liberal laws, Maine has liberalized its laws, and Rhode Island has overturned its complete ban. And as the laws have loosened, the deaths and injuries have declined (.pdf file), perhaps because consumers have safer options.

Now, that’s something to light fireworks over. If you’re not under the boot heel of Massachusetts.

Witness Protection: We don’t think it means what UK thinks it means

In Britain, the definition of “witness protection” is a little different from the way it’s done in the USA, even in fictional TV series like The Sopranos or Lillyhammer. We begin with a former private eye who’s done time for phone hacking, looking at another stay in the nick, says the Beeb:

News of the World hacker Glenn Mulcaire may now face prosecution for obtaining the identities of people under witness protection, Panorama has learned.

OK, so what witnesses did he unprotect, then? What brave snitches that ratted out stone-cold killers? None, actually. In Britain, “Witness Protection” is for the killers, so that the new people they interact with aren’t prejudiced against them.

He had discovered the new identities of four notorious offenders, including one of toddler James Bulger’s killers, by hacking phones, the Met Police said. The newspaper printed several stories about Robert Thompson’s new life.

via BBC News – NoW hacker Glenn Mulcaire ‘breached witness protection’. The press’s focus has been on the corruption of the police, but by any measure the corruption of the press was far worse (the final tally of arrests for phone hacking was 26 coppers and 101 ink-stained wretches, although “final” seems like the wrong word, with Mulcaire liable to rearrest and a second ride through the Old Bailey fun house, and unnamed other journos likely to join him. But let’s dwell a time on the “witnesses” whose privacy has been worth, so far, a £60 million investigation. Robert Thompson and Jon Venables are two soulless monsters who at age ten committed their first killing, two-year-old James Patrick Bulger. But it wasn’t just a murder. They lured the toddler away from his mother, kidnapped him,  and led him away. The trusting boy, a month short of his third birthday, seemed to like one of the killers, Venables; he took his hand, and from time to time, Venables says, he picked him up and carried him. The murderers were caught by a camera as they led the boy away; that picture would ultimately lead to their arrest and conviction. No camera caught what happened next, but the soulless pair had no problem admitting it, when they were finally asked. They began to beat and injure the boy as they led him across town to a remote railyard, where they tortured him. Motive? None evident. Just cruelty let to run free. Here’s what happened to the poor kid: this is what the “witnesses” they’re so anxious to “protect” did:

  1. They had already dropped him on his head and beaten him in the face.
  2. They poured or threw oil-based laquer in his eye.
  3. They kicked and stomped on him.
  4. They threw bricks and stones at him.
  5. They pulled off his shoes, socks, pants and underpants.
  6. They sexually molested him. (The details of this are mercifully unclear).
  7. They shoved batteries up his anus, causing internal injuries.
  8. They then stuffed the batteries in his mouth. All the time they were laughing and egging each other on — by their own statements.
  9. Tiring of torturing the toddler, they then raised up a railway fishplate (the 20+ pound iron plate that sits under the rail on each tie, and holds the spikes in position) and smashed his small skull with it. Repeatedly. He ultimately had 10 skull fractures, and dozens of other injuries. If their previous abuses did not kill him, this did.
  10. They then lay his dead body across the tracks and buried his head under trash and scrap (including the fishplate). They later explained, quite cold-bloodedly and remorselessly, that they did this to make it look like the child was a victim of a train accident.
  11. They then left, completely carefree.
  12. Two days later, Bulger’s body was found. It had been crushed and severed by passing trains. The pathologists determined that all the train injuries were postmortem, but he couldn;t determine which of the many other injuries was fatal to poor Bulger.

The only regret one of these monsters, Venables, ever expressed was regret that he got caught, and Thompson, who took the lead in these appalling crimes, has never expressed even that much. But they walk free today (despite, in the case of Venables, subsequent felonies).

A woman who saw the grainy security footage was able to ID one of the killers, and knew that he and the other had played hooky that day. After the boys were arrested , a mountain of physical evidence condemned them. One left an identifiable shoeprint on Bulger’s face; their shoes still were bloody, with Bulger’s blood. They’d gotten the paint the put in his eye on themselves and their clothes. And they denied nothing.

At the trial, it came out that Bulger was the second toddler they’d tried to kidnap and murder that day, but in the first case they were stopped by an alert mother.

By any measure, these two human-shaped creatures are a complete waste of protoplasm, and in a better world they would have been recycled already. Even the British judge recognized that he was dealing with two lost souls of “unparalleled evil and barbarity… cunning and very wicked.” 

Due to quirks in Britain’s laws, and the extreme laxity of British justice, they could not be imprisoned for long. The Home Secretary tried to have them imprisoned for fifteen years (!) but British liberals and lawyers protested with anguish the “cruelty” of the sentence. Prime Minister John Major countered that it would be good to “condemn a little more, and understand a little less.” But he didn’t do anything concrete about it (and would soon be swept away by an election of his own).

While imprisoned, the murderers received a cash allowance, outings to recreational areas, education to A-Levels, and new identities, as part of the ill-named “witness protection” program, which in Britain is primarily used to give cover to murderers, rapists, child molesters, and other monsters. Now, many of the 8,500 participants in US WitSec are not nice people, but they’re not in the program because they were murderers; they’re in the program because they have given up worse murderers or other criminals. That is a distinction that our British cousins appear to have lost sight of, in pursuit of some daft idea that crime should be as free as possible of consequences. Some unknown number of the 3,000 people in the British equivalent program are actually criminals who made no contribution to criminal justice, except as the men of the hour.

Returning to our heroes’ conduct whilst in nick, Venables regularly had sex with a woman who worked in his prison; when it was discovered, she was transferred and the incident covered up. Nothing was allowed to interfere with HM Prison Service’s prime goal, the comfort and convenience of these monsters. A psychiatrist’s report identifying Thompson as a psychopath (for one thing, he has never shown remorse, or any affect at all, relative to the Bulger murder) was dismissed by the authorities, who were determined to demonstrate rehab success with these two unlikely candidates.

Even the weak-as-water 15-year sentence didn’t stand. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the murderers had been ill done by and must be released sooner. The same Court dismissed the entreaties of Bulger’s parents as unworthy of the notice of such distinguished jurists as themselves; by extension, ruling that Bulger, unlike Thompson and Venables, had no “human right” to life. Lawyers!

After they were released from prison in 2001, the new false identities of the two murderers have been one of Britain’s most expensively and thoroughly guarded state secrets. That hasn’t prevented them from returning to crime; character always runs true.

Venables, in particular, remains a threat to children and the public. He was arrested in 2008 for affray (assault), and later for cocaine possession. He even was returned to prison briefly in 2010 after being caught possessing and distributing explicit child porn — including images of two-year-olds being raped by adults. (You may recall, if you had the stomach to read the list above, that his original offense was the molestation and rape of a two-year old. Character runs true).

In the USA, even a first offense of child porn of that nature would get a long sentence, but in Britain, it’s only good for two years. Venables was released in 2013, after being given a second new identity, when the first one wound up posted on a website that tracks pedophiles. Under his “clean” new identity, he is not required to register as a pedophile, although he remains on supervised release; Britain places a higher value on the privacy of Venables than the safety of any children this lifelong pervert may encounter.

But the villain, say the British authorities? It’s not Venables, or Thompson, but Mulcaire: the guy who would identify these ticking time bombs for the defenseless public. Several public-spirited Britons who have tried to “out” the new identities of these perverts and murderers have been dragged into the criminal courts handled considerably more roughly than the monsters themselves.

When your system of laws elevates the comfort of Venables and Thompson above the life of poor, doomed Bulger, it has long ceased to be a system of justice. 

VA Behaving Badly, Again, Still

VA-veterans-affairsAre we sick of VA stories yet?

ITEM: Here’s the Stars and Stripes with the Top 10 outrageous VA employee behaviors. They say:

In addition to covering up appointment wait time records and handing out undeserved bonus awards, misconduct within the Department of Veterans Affairs extends to everything from sexual abuse and skipping work to identity theft and drug distribution.

You name it, they got it: rapes, kiddie porn, sexting, DUI in a G-ride, and even a kidnaping and murder plot — by a VA cop. Two of the worst cases were in, where else, Massachusetts. The last on the Stripes’ list refers to the wait-list scandal, but in a new way: someone was actually punished. Unfortunately it was Lisa Lee, the whistleblower in Fort Collins, Colorado. Few of the other miscreants have been punished: Acting Secretary Slade Gorton has sworn that their jobs and bonuses are safe, regardless of their performance. (He knows who his real clients are).

ITEM: A nursing manager in Albany, NY, Val Riviello, went from “outstanding employee” to target of official sanctions and harassment by the facility’s management when she complained about abuse of patients and a nurse’s theft of 5,000 vials of morphine. Unlike Riviello, that nurse hasn’t seen consequences.

ITEM: Many are critical of the VA’s treatment of PTSD and TBI vets, but the vets themselves tend to express their criticism directly: dropping out of treatment when it’s ineffective.

In the survey of more than 3,100 veterans, commissioned by the American Legion, almost 60 percent of those who received behavioral counseling reported that their symptoms stayed the same or worsened during treatment.

The figures were similar among veterans prescribed medication to cope with PTSD and TBI, with 52 percent claiming their condition went unchanged or deteriorated.

Amid deepening concerns that medical providers are overprescribing drugs for veterans, more than half of the survey’s participants reported having five or more prescriptions. More than 20 percent said they take 10 or more prescribed medications.

This one probably is due as much to the intractability of the ailments as it is to the VA’s usual barbers doing their usual quackery. But hey, they’ll all get bonuses, so there is that.

ITEM: The Office of Special Counsel notes that the VA has systematically retaliated against those whistleblowers, while never holding anyone responsible for mistreatment or neglect of veterans.

ITEM: The Office of Special Counsel (again, two weeks after the above) has a “culture of ” and has ignored the “severity of systemic problems.” (This one refers back to the mental patients warehoused in a Massachusetts VA hospital for 7 and 8 years without ever seeing a headshrinker).

ITEM: A massive file of VA wrongdoing is exposed in a 120-page report from Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK). (.pdf file). A few uncomfortable facts from Coburn’s report:

  1. Despite their poor performance, VA employees are the highest-paid employees in the entire Federal government. And that’s before the $160 million of bonuses get passed out. (p. 30).
  2. The top bonus recipient? The now-suspended (but certainly not fired) head of the Phoenix VA, whose reckless disregard of her patients led directly to scores of deaths. (p. 29).
  3. The VA doc whose neglect of colonoscopy patients led to an unknown quantity of deaths resigned in 2013, but they’re still paying him almost $300k this year, and won’t say why. (p. 30).
  4. One top VA manager lied on her resumé, winning a promotion with a fraudulent Master’s Degree she never earned. She not only remains in the position, but her annual compensation has come to include a $20,000 or more bonus. (p. 32.)
  5. The VA’s heavy unionization produces the sort of union results we’ve all seen in Government Motors’s UAW-built cars, but there’s no recall for a medical procedure. As many as 227 nominal VA workers actually work full time for the VA union, the American Federation of Government Employees. This time is spent working to featherbed pay and benefits, or on AFGE political activity. (pp. 61-62). And if they’re at the average level of VA pay and benefits, that means the taxpayers are gifting well over $25 million a year to the union — money that Congress thought they were appropriating for the care of “him who shall have borne the battle, and his widow and his orphans.”
  6. Even the AFGE, though, thinks management has its priorities all screwed up. It blames pervasive physician and nurse understaffing on the VA’s focus on filling Washington offices with overpaid middle managers, leaving too little money in the pool to attract good providers to a workplace topheavy with unproductive but irritating managers. (p. 33).
  7. “Veterans are not always the priority,” the report says. (Wrong question, in light of these revelations. Are they ever the priority?) “VA pays nurses to perform union duties and allows doctors to leave work early rather than care for patients. It also tolerates employees skipping work for long periods of unapproved absences, while veterans cannot get phone calls answered or returned.” (p. 5).
  8. The wait-time scandal is not new: an Appendix to the report (pp. 86-87) documents 21 reports and audits on unsatisfactory wait times and mismanagement dating back to May, 2000 and continuing steadily to date, with no apparent reaction from entrenched VA leadership.
  9. A nurse appears to have murdered three patients. In a deal you wouldn’t get if you were charged with murder, she served eight days. 
  10. Again, there’s no accountability. We’ll close with a quote from the report:

Even for serious offenses, ranging from failure to show up at work to inappropriate sexual contact with patients, VA employees are rarely fired. Instead, they are placed on paid administrative leave for extended periods of time. This result is far from discouraging the kinds of problems that hurt veterans. The VA instead effectively rewards bad behavior with what amounts to a paid vacation.

Lord love a duck.

Help a Brother Out — Forgotten Weapons Indiegogo Appeal

OK, usually when we’re axing ya to he’p a brother out, it’s an SF brother. In this case, it’s a gun blogging brother, and the guy that actually inspired us to take up the blog cudgel, for better or for worse, Forgotten Weapons .com’s Ian McCollum. Ian has a dream, and it involves higher-quality videos shot with better video, audio, and production gear — in fact, with fully professional gear.

His 50 meter target was $7,500, and he’s blown past that with the generous support from others (and some miserly support from us. Hey, New England Yankees, you know?). Now he has his sights on a stretch goal of $13k. That will put a professional-quality high-speed camera in his hands, allowing high-speed video of a lot of the unusual, exotic, and just plain cool social-action tools that he gets his hands on.

Forgotten Weapons already sets a high standard for accuracy and interesting content – imagine combining that passion and dedication with a really serious set of of video equipment! Many of the guns you see on Forgotten Weapons are ones you will not see anywhere else, and the information I present is a step (or several steps) above the typical online video. I tell you about the development and history of the weapon, its pros and cons, how and when it was used (or what it developed into our out of), and the intimate details of how it works.

That’s the essence of his pitch: he gives us all good stuff, and wants a little help to give us better stuff. As we type this Wednesday night for Thursday morning, he’s $2,600 or so short with three weeks to go. If ten of you buy a Lifetime Premium Membership in his site for $150, he’ll be most of the way to his goal (and you’ll get some cool discounts). If you can’t see your way clear to $150, I know that Ian appreciates every donation, even $10, $5, or those silly Euro thingies.

So please go here, view Ian’s pitch, and be part of his site’s bold advance into tomorrow:   Forgotten Weapons Pro-Quality Video | Indiegogo.

(If you want to see some of the videos he’s doing now, just go right to ForgottenWeapons.com).

Harve Saal SOG books on ebay

This rare and out of print set of books just showed up on eBay. We have the set and were a bit shocked at the price, but for a researcher, there’s good stuff in here. For the person interested in action stories or lots of color photography, these may not be the right books. (If you’re going to spend thousands on SOG books, buy the six volumes so far of Jason Hardy’s coffee-table masterpiece, Team History of a Clandestine Army, which are still available — just). But Saal was both a member of the unit and an early historian. The books are a solidly made and well-printed overview of the organization and its operations, and have not been duplicated since.

Harve Saal Volumes

Harve passed away in December, 1997 and we have no idea who holds the rights to these works, although he definitely did have family who survived him. The first priniting is, to date, the first and only edition.

The four books were organized thematically:

  • Volume I, History/Evolution. This traces the course of SOG from its clandestine beginnings to the stepwise conversion of its assets and capabilities to RVN control.
  • Volume 2, Locations. This is the “where” of SOG: bases, launch sites, etc.
  • Volume 3, Legends. A limited who’s who of SOG luminaries.
  • Volume 4, Appendixes.

We found each volume interesting.

At the time Saal wrote these books, SOG’s existence was gradually being declassified, and most of the material in the books was very hard to find. As a SOG vet, Saal had a wide range of contacts, and almost everybody had not only

The books are not numbered. Generally, a set of four sells for far more than the sum of the values of the four individual books. There are copies available from time to time through Amazon’s affiliated sellers as well as on eBay. With the Amazon sellers, it’s hard to tell who’s selling one volume or all four.

We might post a more detailed review of the set at some time, but we’re planning to make a list of indispensable books about SOG with a capsule review of each — Saal’s definitely qualify.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Warriors Publishing Group

Screenshot 2014-06-25 10.57.29Their tagline pretty much says it:

We Publish Books You Like to Read

They’re the Warriors Publishing Group and they are affiliated with Hollywood military adviser turned actor Dale Dye, and his Warriors Inc. advisory business. Dye, a Vietnam USMC vet and Marine Mustang who retired as a Captain, singlehandedly transformed the Hollywood war-film process by training actors and extras on weapons, tactics, and military deportment in condensed “boot camps”. He is the singular reason that gun handling in today’s films is miles above the gun handling in the classic films of the fifties and sixties, and for that alone everyone who strains his ocular equipment towards a big or small screen needs to say three Hosannas and a Hail Chesty in the general direction of Camp Pendleton (which for us is close enough to the general direction of LA-based Dye. If you’re closer to the West Coast the angles may be all wrong).

Fun fact about Dye: at least on his second, longer tour in Vietnam, he was a combat correspondent, who put a good deal of emphasis on the “combat” part of the title. He experienced, among other delights, the Tet Offensive in Hue, one of the USMC’s legendary battles of the 20th Century.

Dye is also a novelist of some talent. Several of Dye’s books are published by Warriors, unfortunately not including his great Run Between the Raindrops. 

If Dye is one tentpole author in the Warrior’s Publishing tent, the other has to be John DelVecchio. He was also a combat correspondent, but in the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile), the Army’s helicopter-mounted fire department in Vietnam, in 1970-71. DelVecchio’s The 13th Valley is a truly great novel of Vietnam, written when the experience was still fresh in his mind. He has two further books, one dealing with the challenges of veterans’ reintegration, Carry Me Home, and another with the miseries of Cambodia, For the Sake of All Living Things. Fortunately, Warriors has republished these three classics.

Along with those two, WPG also includes books by other authors we haven’t heard of, but certainly hope to.

The boss of Warriors Publishing is longtime Warriors Inc. manager Julia Dewey Dye, PhD, (née Rupkalvis), Dale’s wife and a sought-after theatrical military advisor in her own right.  (They met on the set of Starship Troopers). She has a book out that sounds interesting, Backbone: History, Traditions, and Leadership Lessons of Marine Corps NCOs. (That link is to the Kindle edition, but the hardcover’s the same price). She cites some famous Marine NCOs and former NCOs who are, or ought to be, legends in the Corps. (Some of them, you’ll go, “Dang, I never knew…”) Naturally, it’s published by Warriors.

They do indeed seem to publish books we like to read.

Mental Illness is Expecting the VA to Treat Mental Illness

strait_jacket_obliqueSo, from the time you’re committed to the VA booby hatch, how long should you have to wait for your psychiatric evaluation? According to the VA, seven or eight years is cool. We are not making that up:

A veteran admitted to a long-term VA mental health care facility in Massachusetts waited eight years for his first comprehensive psychiatric evaluation by staff.

Another patient with a 100 percent service-connected psychiatric condition was committed at the same Brockton facility for seven years before a single psychiatric note was placed on his medical chart.

Now that we think about it, we were referred the VA by a reserve component for a cardiac evaluation, while working up for deployment in late 2001 or early 02, and went to the physical-health side of that same Brockton facility. (There was no available military medical facility in New England). Neither the facility nor the staff impressed, at least, not positively. The VA had the EKG read by a dermatologist, whose error caused thousands of dollars in unnecessary tests. But at least we weren’t stowed in a booby hatch untended for seven or eight years.

The cases are among dozens of incidents whistleblowers in the Department of Veterans Affairs have reported out of concern for patients’ safety but the VA has failed to take the incidents seriously, or admit they might affect the quality of treatment in its nationwide system of hospitals and clinics, according to a letter sent to President Barack Obama on Monday by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.

The VA has instead claimed such incidents were “harmless errors,” according to the OSC, an independent federal watchdog charged with protecting whistleblowers and fielding complaints.

What do you say to this: let’s lock every SES manager at VA up for seven or eight years. Maybe we’re right and maybe we’re wrong, but by their own reckoning, it’s a “harmless error,” right?

“This approach has prevented the VA from acknowledging the severity of systemic problems and from taking the necessary steps to provide quality care to veterans,” according to the letter by Carolyn Lerner, head of the OSC. “As a result, veterans’ health and safety has been unnecessarily put at risk.”

This is one where you do want to Read The Whole Thing™, because the neglected nut-hatch inmates are only one of the VA’s many misdeeds documented by the OSC.

If you’re not a veteran, don’t worry: this same government health care is coming your way sooner or later, all in the name of Progress.

The OSC letter implicates the VA’s Office of the Medical Inspector, which oversees quality of care, in the widening scandal over dysfunction in the department.

“…OMI does not feel that their patient’s rights were violated,” Lerner wrote in the letter.

The OSC now has 50 pending VA whistleblower cases alleging threats to patient health or safety and 29 have already been referred to the VA for investigation. The department has been generating an outsized number of complaints to OSC — over 25 percent of all cases coming from the federal government, Lerner noted. …

Lerner said the VA has substantiated whistleblower claims in case after case but then decided there was no wrongdoing or threat to veterans…

Again, Read The Whole Thing™. Amazing. (In a depressing way). One small agency, and one-quarter of the entire Leviathan’s whistleblower complaints — and yet, none of the whistleblower complaints have been taken seriously, when even the VA admits they’re true.

VA’s Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson, who has already promised all VA employees that no wrongdoing will have consequences for them, is paying lip service to acting on the OSC report. You know what to expect from him — nothing.

(Note — this post introduces a new (and overdue) organizational category — Veterans’ Issues. -Ed.)