Monthly Archives: February 2017

The A400M Airlifter is in Trouble. How much trouble?

It was a tempting deal for European nations: an airlifter with the capability of the C-17 for the operating cost of the old standby, the 1950s-vintage C-130 Hercules. Plus, it would be all-European and not subject to the winds and williwaws of American politics and foreign policy, which tend to strike Europeans as puzzling at best, and bat-guano crazy at times.

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Airbus Industrie was going to do this by applying all its advanced processes and technologies from its airline experience to the A400M Atlas. Nations with fleets of aging C-130s and Transall C-160s rushed to sign up, and planned their airplane retirements for the arrival of the new cargo lifter in 2011.

They’re still waiting. What went wrong? France24:

Originally planned for 2011, the plane’s launch was delayed until 2013.

The A400M’s delivery has also run into substantial delays due to a string of technical problems and different requests from the governments.

An A400M plane crashed during a test in May 2015 near Seville in Spain, killing four of the six people on board and seriously injuring the two others.

And new faults were discovered in the propellor engines last year.

They’re actually turboprops, of course.

Airbus A400M Compared to the two US competitors. Wall Street Journal graphic.

On Wednesday, Airbus said its profits nosedived in 2016 due to charges related to problems with the plane.

Speaking to reporters when the group announced the results, [Airbus CEO Tom] Enders said that Airbus needed “the cooperation of clients… to push the programme forward and end the haemorrhaging.”

It turns out, what Tom is gathering the customers for next month in Madrid is a bit of the old hand-out begging: Airbus is being crucified, financially speaking, by penalty clauses in the A400M contracts, and he wants the buyers to waive further penalties.

Which certainly suggests we haven’t seen the end of delays.

Airbus delivered 17 A400M in 2016, compared with 11 in 2015 and has delivered two of the military transport planes so far this year.

But the Germans alone were counting on 12 planes in 2016, and didn’t get them all.

Who pledged to buy A400Ms? (The grounding from a 2015 test-flight accident was long ago lifted).

Still, the project, after a half-decade of delays and billions over budget, is at least delivering airplanes, and they can take off, land, navigate, and haul cargo. So far, the crews love and trust the new ship.

That’s all fine and good, but as is common for new airplanes with a lot of new engineering, they’re not being delivered with all capabilities. For example, they can’t air-deliver paratroops or cargo, yet. The promised self-defense system (anti-missile countermeasures) is still a prototype. A helicopter air-refueling package hasn’t shipped, forcing France to go shopping for C-130s to support special operations and SAR helicopters, or forego the benefits of substantial investment in refueling systems on the receiving side.

The delays have cost Germany alone €300 million, by requiring a life-extension for its Transalls, some of which are fifty years old.

Thomas Wiegold of AugenGeradeaus.net calls it “a question of perspective,” (Awful German Language warning, although quotes from English sources remain in English). Wiegold notes that while the Luftwaffe and therefore the German MOD is unhappy with the plane, the RAF and therefore the UK MOD are well pleased by it. (The RAF also operates Hercules and C-17 cargo aircraft).

Airbus, for their part, is hinting that buyers must be prepared for either more cost overruns or more delays, because “Airbus is too important to Europe.” Ender is making the argument, implicitly, that Airbus now is too big to fail. The Germans, for their part, seem to be sticking to the contract, saying in effect, “This is what you signed, live up to it. Or compensate us for the costs your failure to perform has imposed on us.”

The latest problem relating to cracks in combustion chambers of the engines is just one more setback, but setbacks, delays and overruns are the norm and not some rare exception, in extreme engineering tasks like this.

We’re reminded of the one engineering manager at North American Aviation who, on military or NASA contracts, always came in on time and on budget. Company executive Tex Johnston (the former Boeing test pilot who famously rolled the KC-135/B707 prototype during a public demonstration), asked the prodigy how he managed it, when everyone else always underestimated.

“Well, I get my three best engineers to make an estimate.”

“Ah, and then you average them!”

“No, sir. Then I add them up.”

And that’s how it goes in cutting-edge engineering. Especially with a demanding customer who’s spending Other People’s Money (like a single MOD, let alone a bunch of them).

How Many Rifles, and Where Are They?

Nick Jenzen-Jones has a new and interesting working paper at the Small Arms Survey in Geneva (Here’s the Abstract and the PDF). The title of the paper is dry but promising: Global Development and Production of Self-loading Service Rifles 1896 to the Present. 

As always with the Small Arms Survey, this is a publication more aimed at non-proliferation NGOs and quangos than at enthusiasts, but that does not make Nick’s painstaking work any less interesting or useful to us.

Painstaking? It is. He goes deep into the history of semi-automatic and select-fire rifle production over a century and a quarter, and makes a valiant effort to make sense of conflicting numbers that come more from estimates, propaganda, wild guesses, and serial-number sleuthing than they do from any real solid reporting.

Here is a discussion of AK production, probably the toughest nut to crack for those who want to know, “How many?”

AK-type rifles are the most common self-loading service rifle in the world today by a considerable margin, and are thought to constitute in excess of 40 per cent of the total number of self-loading rifles produced up to the present day. Their ubiquity means that they are encountered in almost every modern conflict zone. Nearly 200 variants, copies, and derivatives of the AK rifle have been identified to date.

According to Russian sources, IZHMASH (now Kalashnikov Concern) only patented the weapon’s design in 1997, and in 2006 Russian Federation AK-type rifles accounted for only 10 per cent of the world’s production of this type

The Soviet-era practice was to share their design and engineering widely to encourage production in nearby “fraternal socialist” allies, and to promote industrial development in distant allies. Nations as diverse as India, Iraq, North Korea and Egypt would never have produced AK clones without direct Soviet assistance (the Egyptian plant was even supervised by Soviet engineers, initially, and used every single process of its Soviet prototype).

So the modern Russian inability to issue a concrete figure of AKs produced is an understandable result of previous policies, as well as of Izmash and Amtorg/Rosoboronexport giving up control of the design of the firearm. The AK’s very simplicity led to further proliferation of manufacture, especially after the 1960s change from machined receiver to stamped with machined and stamped parts riveted in place.

But the paper goes far beyond AKs to discuss the entire history of the self-loading rifle.

Here’s a snip of Table 1 from the paper, which should give you an idea just how thorough and historically interesting it is:

Sure, it’s missing some firearms that were produced in the millions, including the M1/2/3 Carbine (~5.5 million in WWII alone, if memory serves), the G/K 43 (perhaps under a million), and the  AG 42 and Hakim. But all of those are obsolete firearms washed away by the tide of ARs, and, especially, AK. And some of them, like the M1 Carbines, are mentioned elsewhere in the report. Sure, you can quibble with the numbers. But the original table includes extensive sourcing and notes. He appears to be, from his notes, excluding firearms produced for civilian markets including non-militarized law enforcement, which means he’s not capturing the bulk of AR production.

Cached weapons, like these Port Said 9mm SMGs (a license-built Carl Gustav M45B ‘Swedish K’) recovered after decades underground, can last a very long time.

Production, of course, is only half of the conundrum, and Nick tries to understand and estimate inventory shrinkage and diversion, demilitarization and destruction, and wear-out. The problem with that, of course, is not only that there are no comprehensive prior numbers to be exploited as found data, but also that rifles are fiendishly durable goods; and are valuable enough that many possessors will take care to maintain and store them properly, if they can and know how. He makes this note:

International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops in Afghanistan captured several well-worn but functional examples of AK and AKM rifles manufactured in the 1950s (Iannamico, 2015).

In fact, in Afghanistan in 2002, our team captured, along with tons of common AKMs and a mountain of World War II weapons, a quantity of prewar Mauser rifles and ZB-26 machine guns, and very first model AK-47s that were 1940s production with a primarily stamped receiver, that pre-date the familiar machined AK-47 receiver. Along with them, we turned up some real oddities like a Ross. All were functional, although there was no ammunition for the .303 and 7.92mm weapons in the caches.

One can quibble with this aspect or that of what Nick has written is, but the fact is that this is the single most comprehensive look at world service rifle stockpiles. Were the numbers to be graphed, they’d need to have really large confidence-interval indications, like error bars or something, because the data are squirrelly, but that’s not his fault. Indeed, to produce a readable, informative document out of such a primordial chaos of data is a signal achievement. We predict that this paper will be widely cited in future scholarship.

Friday Tour d’Horizon, 2017 Week 08

Tour d’Horizon is more honestly a tour of open tabs that have been annoying and irritating us.

Guns

I don’t wanna work, I just wanna bang on my gun all day.

Copper Alloy Hunting Bullets

Very interesting link sent in by a reader, showing these remarkable hunting bullets made by Lutz Möller. They are available in Europe, and these particular ones are for the Continental big-game caliber, 9.3 x 60 mm. The hybrid design produces fragmentation (of the point section only) and also penetration (of the main slug, the base of which is hollow to control for weight and stability). Note the five narrow driving bands, and how they alone are marked by the rifling lands. The Möller site is fascinating and full of things we did not know, like the European CIP playing games with throat sizes for the .50 BMG (12.7 x 99) cartridge. (Möller, cued by one of his customers, calls it “castration” of the round, as the oversize throat CIP specifies ruins accuracy). The bulk of the site is in the Awful German Language®, so know that tongue, or (shudder) pop the URL into translate.google.com.

DeLisle for Our Euro Friends

We’ve covered a couple of the DeLisle clones made in the USA, but they’re scant consolation to our European friends, who may have difficulty importing firearms from the New World (their authorities seem to see the United States as something like Isla Nublar, home of Jurassic Park).

The Firearm Blog has found a Scots manufacturer, Shandwick Engineering, that clones the silenced carbine in regular or folding-stock, and firing or display, and such a thing may be an easier import to the Continent — at least, until Brexit. More pics at the link.

In the States, unfortunately, Special Interest Arms is discontinuing their less accurate copies, citing a lack of available actions and parts

ARs, Ammo, and Accuracy

Herschel Smith takes a deep dive into accuracy and what it means for the practical AR or military rifle/carbine shooter. He concludes that M855A1 has been oversold, but that any decent AR with decent ammo with a bullet that is matched to its twist rate can probably outshoot most of the guys who shoot it.

Therefore, the best thing any of us can do: buy quality ammo, and practice more. Sounds reasonable to us, but you will want to Read The Whole Thing™ and watch the videos and follow the links he had provided in this most thorough post.

Gun Stocks update NEW-ish

Anyway you want it: we have the table, our analysis, and the popular chart.

Gun Stocks since the Election
Week Ending RGR SWHC AOBC VSTO
11/8/16 (pre-election) 64.40 28.45 38.94
11/18/16 53.20 24.13 40.02
11/25/16 52.50 23.82 41.05
12/2/16 50.25 21.10 39.66
12/9/16 51.90 21.07 38.62
12/16/16 53.45 21.59 36.81
12/23/16 54.05 22.11 38.03
12/30/16 52.70 21.08 36.90
1/6/17 54.15 21.00 38.08
1/13/17 51.35 20.60 28.70
1/20/17 50.65 20.13 27.78
1/27/17 51.90 20.58 28.33
2/3/17 50.05 20.12 26.18
2/10/17 50.15 21.08 21.58
2/17/17 49.70 19.22 20.89
2/24/17 (2/23) 50.15 19.40 20.19

Everybody’s down this week, in the absence of concrete news, some approaching or achieving 52-week lows. Ruger released its Q4 and year-end 2016 financials Wednesday. The numbers were good: sales were up over 20%, Earnings Per Share over 40%, and sell-through (from RGR’s distributors to retailers) up 12%, while NSSF adjusted NICS were up 10%. Taken together, this suggests that inventory may be starting to build up in the channel, but Ruger also noted that what was driving sales and revenues (both of which beat Wall Street estimates) was primarily new products sales. AOBC was up a little, and VSTO continued a slow decline. (needs new chart below)

Disclaimer: Your Humble Blogger holds RGR, bought at about 56.40 on 9 Nov 16. It bottomed in the 40s later that day. We do like the dividend, as mentioned before; we received 44¢ per share for Q4 2016, announced Wednesday.

Shorts

  • Sumdood 3D Printed a Suppressor, after getting an approved Form 1. He used a threaded insert to increase what would otherwise be the butterfly life of this thing.
  • Cheap .303 British, on sale for $81 a can from Midway. Stuff is nasty: dirty outside, corrosive primed, nonreloadable brass, Pakistan production. But it is cheap. Do not tumble these rounds as the filling is cordite and 40 or more years old. It’ll shoot fine with tarnish on it, it will not shoot fine with the cordite propellant replaced by little random sized flakes.
  • Gander Mountain to File Bankruptcy Case. TFB is reporting (as are financial sites) that the hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation chain is deep in the hole. If there’s any hope for the chain to pull it out, the filing will be Chapter 11; otherwise it will be a Chapter 7 liquidation.

Gun Poly-Ticks

Appeals Court Erases 2nd Amendment

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has, in a new ruling, made the 2nd Amendment null and void by ruling that, we are not making this up, it doesn’t apply to any weapon having a military use. (Yes, this is a complete reversal of the ruling in Miller, the 1939 Supreme Court case that was about half of all 2nd Amendment case law until recent decades, not to mention Heller and McDonald). Sebastian explains:

[T]he 4th Circuit sitting en banc, in a 10-4 ruling deciding the fate of Maryland “assault weapons ban” have held that weapons that are “most useful in military service” are simply categorically unprotected. Because almost all modern firearms have a military pedigree, this interpretation would allow nearly any firearm to be banned.

The ruling was 10-4. Just let that sink in. That’s not even close. We have had to convince four additional judges to prevail here.

Sebastian goes on to show how this decision was the consequence of, primarily, two two-term presidents packing the court with liberals. (Some judges don’t dance with the party that brung ’em; the worst judge on the 4th Circuit for 2A is a Reagan appointee, and the author of the stinging dissent was appointed by President Clinton. But by and large you can predict a judge’s vote if you know who appointed him).

Guy Goes to Prison for Sharing His CNC Machine

Once again, Sebastian has the basic facts of the case. By his conduct and attitude this guy, Daniel Crowninshield aka Doctor Death(!), made himself a target for the ATF. With more violations found when the warrant was served, he wound up with him pleading out; a cleaner suspect might have won on the manufacturing charge (he essentially talked customers through operation of his CNC. ATF says that’s manufacturing w/o a license) but a guy looking at an unlicensed MG rap had better not.

This ATF case was enough of an overreach that mild law professor Glenn Reynolds called for the agency to be disbanded: “Abolish the ATF.” The libertarian-leaning Reynolds is pro-gun, but not the sort of Establishment figure who declares war on Federal agencies.

And then, ATF Had this Slush Fund… as we reported yesterday.

Virtue Signaling Costs Money

And The National Shooting Sports Foundation has quantified it for the innumerate Governor of Connecticut (.pdf), Dannel (“Mom was too baked to spell ‘Daniel'”) Malloy. NSSF:

During a period of strong growth in other states, companies have left the state and shifted new production to other states after Gov. Malloy’s public attacks against the industry.

Over 3,000 jobs lost, in-state wages down by 36%, state taxes paid declined by 37%, contribution to state’s economy down by nearly $700 million.

Geez, NSSF. Didn’t Napoleon tell you never to interrupt an enemy while he was making a mistake?

 

Usage and Employment

 The hardware takes you only half way. Nothing this week. 

Cops ‘n’ Crims

Cops bein’ cops, crims bein’ crims. The endless Tom and Jerry show of crime and (sometimes instantaneous) punishment. Lots of Cop Was a Crim this week.

Assault Rifles? That’s Not How People Get Killed

In 2014, you are 67% less likely to be murdered by an assault weapon or rifle than you were in 1995

Revolving Door, Pardons and Commutations Dep’t

President Obama freed thousands of violent criminals and drug dealers, causing cynics to predict that they’d be doing new crimes in no time at all. So far, the crims are not letting cynics down. You heard about the guy that got whacked right after his release. Well, another coke dealer whose life sentence the last President had erased, was just recaptured after a violent vehicle chase — with a kilo of coke. The guy is 68 years old, and now he’s back inside for a while — at least, until the Democrats get back in.

Huh, This One Didn’t Fight Deportation

Why did criminal alien Abdulrahman Abduljalil stop fighting deportation? While he was likely to be released under the ancien régime, he was probably going to prison after the administration change: he is a kiddie diddler who raped two children in Weymouth, Massachusetts. (They were a boy of 9 and his younger sister, whose age wasn’t reported).

Abduljalil was deported by immigration officials on Jan. 24, a day before he was due in court for a pre-trial hearing.

The mother of the victims says she was shocked to hear he was sent home and is now looking for answers.

Under Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi version of sharia law,  there’s no crime in what he did, as long as the victims are of a lower social class, female, or non-moslems.

The Perils of Kathleen: Send in the Clones!

We should have known that the anti-gun felon AG’s absence from the news last week was only a tease. She’s baaaaack  — and there’s a clone growing in the test tubes of the AG’s office. .

  • Item 19 Feb: A New Rising Star in Kane’s Image is new deputy AG for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Michelle Henry. Like Kane, the new deputy was a prosecutor before taking on this political role (her boss, Josh Shapiro, is a career politician bereft of courtroom experience). Like Kane, her last be case was the Kane case — but Henry was the prosecutor.

We’re getting a strong signal that Oennsylvania law is not going to settle down and fly right under the nouveau régime any more than it did under the last.

There’s a New Sheriff in Town, and One Crooked Card Game Just Closed

Chelsea Clinton’s in-laws are both former Congressthings, but one in-law is an outlaw, too; her father in law Edward Maurice Mezvinsky wore Federal Bureau of Prisons inmate number 55040-066 on his orange jumpsuit for five years, for running a crooked hedge fund and cheating his investors. (Somehow, the investors never got made whole, but the Mezvinskys stayed rich).

Her husband, Mark Mezvinsky, is a chip off the old block, running a hedge fund that lost vast sums, but looked an awful lot like a marketing scheme for access to the Clinton (H.) Administration. For whatever reason, Mezvinsky’s top cover from the White House and the DOJ having ended on or about 20 January, his hedge fund Eaglevale Parters is now being liquidated, and what remains of would-be influence buyers’ money is being returned, according to Bloomberg.

The decision to liquidate Eaglevale was taken after the election.

Speaking of Fraud Dep’t

An Iranian scammer who bilked investors of $300 million, including investors in two paper mills here in New Hampshire, is about to be released from prison after serving a fraction of his Federal sentence — and Mehdi Ghabadazaydeh’s health, which always plagued him at convenient junctures during his trial and incarceration, seems to be looking up as he gets closer to freedom — and to the money, which was never recovered.

He’s clearly not a good citizen; if we’re not going to keep this rotter locked up, shouldn’t he get to enjoy his money amongst the mullahs and chadors of the Islamic Republic of Iran?

Don’t do the Crime if You Can’t Do the Time Dep’t

Call him a Waaahmbulance: also here in the ‘Shire, murderer Alberto Ramos sued NH for shipping him out to a Florida prison, on the interesting claim that he had ineffective assistance of counsel, since the then-mouthpiece didn’t tell the minor-tried-as-an-adult he might get a prison far away from his friends. (Like his special prison pal, the pedo priest). He lost [.pdf]. Sad!

Shorts (none)

Unconventional (and current) Warfare

What goes on in the battlezones of the world — and preparation of the future battlefields. 

The Nature of Islam is Political Islam

At his own blog, where he’s normally focused mostly on human biodiversity, polymath Razib Khan makes a good-faith effort to understand Islam — he himself is of Islamic extraction but apparently no personal religion — and points out several instances where other analysts either helped him along, or fell short.

Some of these fell short of good-faith; others fell short of effort. Razib’s attempts are a model we might all benefit by emulating.

This Doesn’t Mean He’s Going to Fix Windows Security

Bill Gates has decided that bioterrorism is bad, m’kay, and he’s going to stand up and warn us all about the dangers of viruses.

Trust us, Bill, any of the sad sacks who bought a computer with one of your operating systems any time in the last thirty years is all spun up on the dangers of viruses. First hand.

You know, when facing a thorny problem, the first thing everyone thinks is, “we need the input of a rich lawyer’s son who got fantastically richer by cheating an inventor out of his product for $50k.”

Veterans’ Issues

Is it time to o disband this thing yet, and letting all its bloatoverhead seek its own level in the Dreaded Private Sector™? 

Hundreds of VA “Employees” are Paid by Taxpayers, but Work for Unions

The VA actually pays union representatives to negotiate against it. About 350 of them work full-time for the union representing bad employees and negotiating for even plusher pay and benefits, while being paid out of money that was appropriated for veterans, not pinky-ring union bosses. Thousands more work part time for the union, but still on the taxpayer dime.

Is it time to disband this thing yet? It only runs for the benefit of the insiders, not the ostensible beneficiaries.

Health & Fitness

Back on a Cardio Schedule

Finally. That’s in addition to to strength training with Jason Gould of Seacoast Strength. We’re ramping back up to our status-quo-ante objective of 1000 kcal/day per the machine readouts (which, we know, are somewhat bogus. But it’s a goal that will get our carcass onto the machinery).

About Strength Training & Seacoast Strength

Two words: highly recommended. Just this evening (Friday) we were walking the edge of the (unfilled) Endless Pool that’s part of a family member’s home addition, swinging around stairs and scaffolds over a bone-crushing drop with the agility and confidence we haven’t had since before another bone-crushing drop (that one, involving a parachute, a hook turn too low, and a paved taxiway) in January, 2004. Actually, the drop wasn’t bone-crushing at all, but the sudden stop at the end…

You may laugh, but the ability to stand on either foot, over a decade after being assured by orthopods, podiatrists, and physical therapists, that that was over, is an absolute freaking joy. 

Lord Love a Duck!

The weird and wonderful (or creepy) that we didn’t otherwise get to.

Chinese Catholics Fear Betrayal

 

Members of the underground Catholic church in officially-atheistic China hold Mass in secret, and fear betrayal to the authorities, with all the consequences that can bring. What has changed is who they see as a threat — “liberation theology” Pope Francis.

And to Close on an Upbeat… literally.

As recommended by another guy on Gab. Classic rocker Rick Derringer is a gun guy (with a name like that, naturally!) who always travels with a gun… some 50 times on a commercial jet. Well, Time 51 and the TSA caught him, and he has entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge and paid a $1k fine (and TSA gets to show off his pistol).

You may not remember Rick, but he’s probably best known for two guitar outings — the solo on the sappy 1960s pop hit, Hang on Sloopy, and his own Greatest Hit, performed here in 1973 with his buddy Edgar Winter’s band.

We saw Winter live (can’t remember with or without Derringer) in college in 1977 and it was a hell of a show.

How Do You Avoid Making Immoral Decisions?

This is an interesting question; now, the word “immoral” will probably offend everyone who grew up in the slipstream of the “do your own thing” sixties, but even if you have been conditioned to be uncomfortable with the word “moral,” you have a set of unspoken, moral beliefs: that it is preferable to tell the truth than to lie, to play fair than to cheat, to do the hard right rather than the easy wrong.

Turns out, scientists study this stuff, with clever experiments designed to see what conditions break people loose from their integrity and encourage cheating. Some people will never lie, cheat or steal, no matter what; others will always lie, cheat and steal, even when it’s obviously not in their best interests. But most of us are somewhere closer to the center of a bell curve of behaviors centered between those outlying points of Never and Always.

The Art of Manliness has a profound post on this research and what it means for the man (or, equally, woman, even though men are the target audience) who wants to do the right thing and be known for that.

Some things, some conditions, some choices, increase the likelihood of success in that endeavor. Consider the “honor group.”

Become a member of an honor group.…[T]he more you consider the person you see being dishonest to be a member of the same social group, the more they can influence your ideas of right and wrong. Somewhere in your subconscious you think, “They’re like me and they think doing that is okay, so maybe it’s okay for me to do that too.” We’re even more vulnerable to an example of bad behavior from an authority figure we respect, like a parent, coach, or pastor; these should-be mentors aren’t just like us, they’re people we aspire to become and look to as exemplars.

Courtney Massengales may be born, not made, but their very existence spawns imitators. But it also spawns… resistance!

The really interesting thing, however, is that it also works the opposite way; seeing someone act immorally who we consider outside our social group can inspire us to be better.

In one of the most interesting [studies], instead of the actor/confederate being someone who seemed like all the other student participants, he wore a sweatshirt from the college’s rival school. In this so-called “outsider-Madoff” condition, the participants claimed to solve 6 fewer matrices than in the straight Madoff group. When we see someone act badly whom we consider to be from a different and morally inferior social group than our own, we are reminded that we don’t want to be like them and increase our good behavior in order to distance ourselves from identifying with them.

It’s distancing, not scapegoating, but the same dynamics of human/group psychology are at play.

Honor groups are essentially premised on this principle; the group compares itself to other groups and considers itself to be better/stronger/more moral than any other. The group competes to maintain this reputation and members police each other to uphold standards that will buttress their claim to pride. This kind of “us vs. them” mentality isn’t very popular these days, but I believe it can counter-intuitively be quite healthy in bringing out the best in us.

Wow. But wait! Where have we seen this before? Why, certainly, in military training. Doesn’t every unit and branch of service try to inculcate both a feeling of separateness and righteousness in its members? You’re better than the other platoon, company, battalion, brigade, division, and everyone’s better than those bell-bottomed sailors. (Of course, the Navy has its own version.

In a way, it’s a bleak outlook for humanity, because the tincan sailors whomping on the guys from the next DD over will join together if faced with the submariner threat, and they’ll all fight the Marines or Army, but how is that any different from the Afghan tribesman’s, “me and my brother against my cousin; me, my brother and cousin against the next village; us and our village against…”?

Well, psychologically, it isn’t. But you can deplore it, or you can exploit it. You can even ignore it, but you can’t make it go away. It is. 

Of course, group morality only works if you have a group. In or out of the group, a personal code is a rock you can lean upon.

Know and be firm in your honor code. While we all may be influenced by our friends to varying degrees, the firmer and clearer we are as to our principles and standards, the less swayed we will be by the actions and examples of others. Is your personal honor code vague and squishy, or is it set in a firm foundation and as clear as the noon-day sun? Have you taken the time to reflect on your principles? Do you know how and why you arrived at embracing them or are they unexamined beliefs you have absorbed from your upbringing and culture?

Whether you are amongst members of your honor group or far afield with those who do not share your values, your personal honor code will act as a constant source of direction so that you act as the same man wherever you go and with whomever you meet.

They conclude with a reminder that this morality stuff is real and solid:

There is a popular viewpoint these days that ridicules the idea that one individual’s personal decisions and behavior could possibly have an effect on the behavior of others. But what the scientific research on the subject tells us is that it is in fact ridiculous not to realize that each person’s actions have an ever-so-subtle ripple effect that influences others and the culture at large.

…and if you put it to work for you, the benefits will redound to you, of course, but will spread far and wide. The concept of immoral thought, expediency and misconduct as contagious pathogens is something that has broad and deep application.

This thoughtful article is Part III of a series that has four parts so far.

When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws will have Cameras

Of the sixty or so nations we’ve been to, the most violent was unquestionably Jamaica. To say “life is cheap” there just understates the degree to which Jamaicans will settle trivial disputes with gory homicides (or running gun battles, but there are no guns in this crime). In this case, the guy had a camera and was filming two other dudes… some words were exchanged, and then the cameraman went all stabby on the objector.

The accused Alrick Haynes, a St Mary resident, was charged with December 2015 murder of 53-year-old Fredrick Lewis, otherwise called ‘Chupsy’, of Heywood Hall district in the parish.

Reports are that Haynes, reportedly stabbed Lewis to death during a dispute over a videotaping incident.

Gotta love Caribbean English: “repeatedly stabbed Lewis to death” suggests he stabbed him to death multiple times, but we know that’s not possible: everybody only gets one death. So he stabbed him multiple times, resulting in the guy’s demise; but we have to admit, we like the Jamaican reporter’s word order better, in part because of the ambiguity.

“And when I got done killing him, I killed him again!

Allegations are that at about 1:30 am on the day in question, Lewis and another man had a dispute with Haynes in Heywood Hall, St. Mary because Haynes was allegedly videotaping both men.

Ah, this happened at 0130. What did your sergeant major tell you about 0130?

Maybe that’s why Jamaica is so violent: not enough sergeants major.

During the dispute, Lewis and the other man reportedly hit the Haynes several times, and it is alleged that a knife was used by Haynes to stab Lewis multiple times. He was taken to hospital, where he died while being treated.

Haynes later turned himself in at the Port Maria Police Station, and was charged with murder.

At a bail hearing in January 2016, his attorney submitted that Haynes was defending himself, highlighted that he was attacked by Lewis and another man.

via Murder case over videotaping incident postponed for case file to be completed | Loop News Jamaica.

Gotta love the self-defense claim. “He kept attacking my knife with his chest.” Good luck with that one. One of the few places in Jamaica where people are not just going through the motions is the justice system.

But the court case has to run its course, and Haynes gets his civil rights. (In Jamaica, if he’d used a gun instead of a knife, he’d be in the “Gun Court” and his civil rights would essentially evaporate. That’s just a further station on the Gun Control Light Rail that utopias like California and New Jersey haven’t yet gotten to; when gun control doesn’t work, its advocated double down anew after every failure).

Last we knew, Jamaica still hangs people, but not a common, retail murderer like this clown, so he’ll be going to prison.

Where Treason is A-OK, and Criticism of it is Forbidden

We’re referring (and this is unlikely to shock you) to the People’s Republic of California, and specifically to the Senate of that failing State.

Legislative éminence grise Tom Hayden, perhaps best known to the general public as the former Mrs. Jane Fonda, expired in October (or, as practitioners of one of the few faiths still alive in San Francisco put it, “Satan called him home.”) And naturally his peers — we use the term advisedly — in the Senate have spent from then till now engaged in hosannas to the pulchritude and luminosity of the former violent radical turned typical grifting, grasping, greedy politician.

State Senator Janet Nguyen, who on her election was (and as far as we know, still is) the first ethnic Vietnamese state senator in any American state, was not having any of that, and she prepared a powerful statement. Here are the highlights:

I and the children of the former South Vietnam soldiers will never forget the support of former Senator Tom Hayden for the Communist government of Vietnam and the oppression by the Communist Government of Vietnam for the people of Vietnam.

After 40 years, the efforts by people like him have hurt the people of Vietnam and have worked to stop the Vietnamese refugees from coming to the United States, a free country. We will always continue to fight for freedom and human rights for the people of Vietnam.

Members, I recognize today in memory of the million of Vietnamese and the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese refugees who died seeking freedom and democracy. … I would like to offer another historical perspective.

… I want to share what Senator Hayden meant to me and to the over 500,000 Vietnamese Americans who call California their home, as well as to the over 1 million Vietnamese Americans across the United States.

As you may be aware, Tom Hayden chose to work directly with the Communist North Vietnamese Government to oppose the efforts of United States forces in South Vietnam.

Mr. Hayden sided with a communist government that enslaved and/or killed millions of Vietnamese, including members of my own family. Mr. Hayden’s actions are viewed by many as harmful to democratic values and hateful towards those who sought the very freedoms on which this nation is founded.

…. In contrast to the great many people who fought to defend freedom and democracy, Mr. Hayden supported a Communist agenda ….

In sum: bad cess to him. Naturally, his friends and allies would not let Nguyen make that statement, but you can read it here (she got away with the introduction, in Vietnamese, before Kevin de Leon called the Senate Bouncers to give her the bum’s rush).

Hayden is especially beloved in institutional and academic Californistan — the environment that produced his modern cognate, Sulayman al-Faris, aka Abu Sulayman al-Irlandi, aka John Walker Lindh — for his “opposition to the Vietnam war.” This opposition included gathering information for the People’s Republic of Vietnam and harassing American families of prisoners of war. He first came to the public’s attention of one of the organizers of the Alinskyite attack by hippies armed with sticks, bricks and molotov cocktails on the police at the Democratic Party Convention in Chicago in 1968. Hayden himself, a physical coward, was far from the “cannon fodder” he sent in, for his objective was to provoke the police into “overreaction.”

The media, safe behind the cops, and in on Hayden’s plan, produced thousands of these images, making it look like the Chicago PD made an unprovoked attack on “protesters,” and that’s how they reported it. (It wasn’t a complete loss. A lot of deserving skulls got cracked, and a beginning news fabricator named Dan Rather got punched in his glass jaw. What’s the frequency, Kenneth?)

Hayden went on to win a mistrial as one of the Chicago Eight clown show defendants, and continued to serve the interests of Communism and foreign powers for the rest of his miserable life.

 

After trying to make a statement about the late Tom Hayden and his opposition to the Vietnam War, Sen. Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove) was removed from the floor of the state Senate on Thursday, a tense scene that ended in a slew of angry accusations…

Nguyen, who was brought to the United States as a Vietnamese refugee when she was a child, said she wanted to offer “a different historical perspective” on what Hayden and his opposition to the war had meant to her and other refugees.

Hayden, the former state legislator who died last October, was remembered in a Senate ceremony Tuesday. ….

“I’m very sad because the very people who elected me to represent them and be their voice on the Senate floor, I wasn’t allowed to speak on their behalf,” Nguyen said later in an interview with The Times. “I was told I cannot speak on the issue at all,” she said.

The LA Times, being the LA Times, can’t even describe the sanguinary efforts of Hayden honestly. (Apart from all he did directly in Chicago and Vietnam, he also was a founder of the SDS, the “overt” political branch of the murderous Weather Underground terrorist movement).

Hayden was an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War and made celebrated trips to North Vietnam and Cambodia, offering to help broker a peaceful end.

via A state senator is removed from the chamber for her comments about Tom Hayden and Vietnam – LA Times.

“Broker a peaceful end,” that is probably the most dishonest phrase ever written, and it took two LA Times hacks, John Myers and Melanie Mason, to generate a lie that big. (That’s like saying the Wannsee Conference met to “broker a peaceful end” to the “Jewish Question.” It’s always peaceful if you just get on the boxcars yourself, which was always Hayden’s goal for the free people of Vietnam).

Let’s reconsider what Hayden actually did during his period of Vietnam “protest.”

On visits to Vietnam, he not only performed propaganda for his Communist masters, but worked to help Communist organs recruit propaganda mouthpieces and spies among disaffected, tortured prisoners:

Tom Hayden’s anti-war efforts included recruitment efforts of military personnel, and propaganda from release of American POWs. Whether or not Hayden and Fonda were in bed together on this one (literally and figuratively) is not clear.

His efforts (among other traitors’) were an inspiration to Vo Nguyen Giap, the military leader of North Vietnam, and extended the war, leading to over 50,000 more Americans killed. (Same page as last quote).

General Giap and the NVA viewed the Tet 1968 offensive as a failure, they were on their knees and had prepared to negotiate a surrender.

At that time, there were fewer than 10,000 U.S. casualties, the Vietnam War was about to end, as the NVA was prepared to accept their defeat.

Then, they heard Walter Cronkite (former CBS News anchor and correspondent) on TV proclaiming the success of the Tet 1968 offensive by the communist NVA. They were completely and totally amazed at hearing that the US Embassy had been overrun. In reality, The NVA had not gained access to the Embassy–there were some VC who had been killed on the grassy lawn, but they hadn’t gained access. Further reports indicated the riots and protesting on the streets of America.

According to Giap, these distorted reports were inspirational to the NVA. They changed their plans from a negotiated surrender and decided instead, they only needed to persevere….

Today, there are 58,229 names on the Vietnam Wall Memorial.

We know where we stand on this. We stand with State Senator Nguyen. Her powerful statement is available on her State Senate web page, at least for now. Who knows how long that will stand, before the Cult of Hayden burns it down?

When You Screw up in the Workshop

This is a plane story, just because our latest screwup was in fabricating a landing light, but it could definitely be a gunsmithing story, so we’re going to run with it.

The lights, a kit option, are not shown on this factory drawing. The landing light has two little stub ribs to hold it in place, and fits between the most outboard two nose ribs in the right wing. Image: Van’s Aircraft.

After several weeks stalled by finicky wiring issues, the Blogbrother and Your Humble Blogger finally had the wiring to our second and last wing completed. First, a little stage-setting. Both wings have tip strobe/position lights, with several wires that have to be connected just so using archaic Molex connectors. Each wing has one extra challenge: the stall warning system on the left side, and the landing light on the right. The stall warning side is done, so completing the tip light wiring and connectors, and completing and installing the landing light parts, were the last hold-ups.

The RV-12’s left wingtip (shown) has been put to bed. Before we can do the right one, we have to tackle the landing light.

Working with the smallest size Molex pins and connectors is finicky, mentally demanding work, and you have to be fresh to do it. At last the tip light wiring was done, and the landing light assembly was ready for its moment in the spotlight. The wiring and Molexes all went swimmingly — over several days, because the necessity of turning words on a page into wire positions in the connectors was brain-frying. Small Dog MkII could detect the stress, and he went off and hid in our messy office, and ate something that turned his muzzle black. (Inkjet printer cartridge is the odds-on favorite. He also ate the lower half of the book jacket of The Bay of Pigs and part of a package that OTR used to send us some info). It’s not like he goes unfed, the toothy little thing.

The landing light itself bolts, with bolts you absolutely, positively cannot reach once the wing is closed out, to two small ribs, and so adjusting the angle is important as you really only get one chance. Then the ribs are riveted in place. With much imprecation and a blasphemy or two we got the assembly into place and clecoed in.

Then the lens goes in, held by eight screws that go, four each, through the acrylic lens, into a pair of brackets that took too long to fabricate themselves. (Each bracket has a rivnut that is held on with two flush rivets. People think of flush rivets as something used on an aircraft’s exterior for aerodynamic reasons, but they’re often used internally when a fastener head must not interfere with part fit, especially on 110-knot airplanes where it isn’t the rivet heads standing between you and the speed of sound). It was clear that the lens could not be put in without a hand in the back holding it.

You know, right where the light assembly and sub ribs were.

So out came the ribs, the light assembly (now wired in place) was lain down, and a hand snaked through to put the lens and Cleco it in place… which meant going to get smaller Clecos, as the ones we used with the Nº 30 holes in the sheet metal were too small to go through the threaded part of the rivnut. (Fortunately, the right Clecos were available downstairs in the gun, etc, shop’s toolboxes, not requiring a wait until Fastenal opens in the morning).

If we had not already cut the hole in the leading edge of the wing, we’d have thrown the light somewhere out in the trackless snow, to puzzle us in spring, and resolved to fly in daylight only.

But we worked through it, got everything Clecoed into place, and when Blogbro arrived for the night’s work, we had cunningly arranged it so that all that needed to be done was screw in 8 screws in place of the small Clecos, start up the compressor, rivet 10 rivets to permanently install the landing light, and then, rivet the wingtip skins in place, leaving the wing complete except for a fiberglass wingtip strobe/position light fairing (glass work awaits warmer weather).

For one brief, shining moment, all was going swimmingly. Like the Red Baron, a photo jinxed us.

Ten minutes later, tightening the brass screws that hold the landing light lens in place, we heard a soft crack. Reacting to our emotions, probably, rather than the sound, Small Dog alerted.

Yep, the lens had cracked.

We now faced a decision, and that’s what makes this story of airplane building germane to anyone who smites guns, or, really, builds anything out of anything: what do you do when you screw up?

Fortunately, screwing up is not a novel experience (we are the Rong Brothers after all, because we’re two brothers building a plane, and we’re not the Wright Brothers). And we have a drill for when we bugger a part.

  1. First, Stop. This is something that has to be considered dispassionately. You’re never dispassionate right after you have blown something, as the color of your language attests.
  2. Second, consider your options. For most screwups of this nature that have damaged a part, the options are three:
    1. Use the part as is;
    2. Replace the part;
    3. Repair the part.
  3. Understand why you damaged the part so that if you are working with a repaired or replaced part, you don’t do the exact same thing.

This is a pretty generic, top-level troubleshooting menu that will work for anything. Sometimes only one of the three corrective strategies works. In this case, we could have used any of the three.

  1. A cracked lens is not a safety of flight item. We could have made a command decision to sign off on it and live with it. Since a crack in acrylic will propagate until it stops (usually at the opposite edge of the part) this did not seem like an optimal solution.
  2. Replacing the part would have the factory ship us a strip of properly curved acrylic from which we would cut, drill, countersink, and generally fabricate a replacement part. It’s probably the right answer for a part on a new airplane. “I’ll order the part in the morning,” Blogbro sighed (it was his turn). “But I’m not going to pay a fortune for next day air, like you do. It comes when it comes. We can work on the fuselage.” (That’s easy for him to say, it doesn’t cost him another stall in the garage to work on wings and fuse simultaneously).
  3. There is an approved repair for acrylic cracks in low-speed aircraft, and if you look closely at older small planes you will often see it. This consists of drilling a hole at the very end of the crack to stop further propagation of the crack, and reinstalling the part (this is called, logically enough, “stop-drilling”). Stop-drilling is used for cracks in acrylic, and non-structural fiberglass or aluminum parts like fairings, every day. But we already know that we will not do this. We are not trying to make the best RV-12 ever built, but we’ve seen a lot of builders’ handiwork and we are trying, and so far, succeeding, in building a very good one.

You will always have these choices. Repair, replace, let be.

Here’s a concrete example: in the past six months we’ve received not one, not two, but four firearms with inoperable or frozen safeties, three of them collector pieces. “Replace” is of little interest in rare collector firearms, and may not be possible in a product that was discontinued 50 or 70 or 90 years ago; although one could always fabricate a replacement part. (Someone, once, built it. Therefore, you can rebuild it. Whether that is cost-effective or wise is another question entirely). “Use as is” obviously was satisfactory for the last owners, because, let’s face it, most collector firearms never see a round and most dealers disclaim any idea of their safety or suitability for firing. But being unable to apply a safety bugs us, so we’re going to fix three of the four. (The fourth was bycatch in an auction lot, and is a junker not worth fixing. We will disclose the safety problem when we dump it, unlike the large auction house that sold it to us).

Yes, we’ll definitely choose repair as our fix for those safeties. As soon as we get the %#^#^!! landing light and wingtip done.

Wednesday Thursday Weapons Website of the Week: Burr Smith

This is not Burr Smith’s (full name, Robert Burr Smith) Facebook Page — he didn’t live to see Facebook, or personal computers for that matter — but it is a tribute page to Smith, an Army Airborne, Special Forces and unconventional warfare legend, set up by his son. Hey, how many guns can you ID from this grainy picture? (Four are easy, we’ll list ’em after the jump).

Smith was a member of the famous E Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, jumping into Normandy on the night of 5/6 June 1944, and that’s not even where he became legendary.

Sorry for the day late and brevity, but… well, sorry not sorry. Go to the page. Learn about this guy. There are a few books about the secret war in Laos that will help you understand a guy who began there with White Star and was there on and off for about as long as an American was welcome.

Continue reading

ATF Headquarters Ran Fraud to Fund Undercovers

Unable to spend appropriated funds on some agency priorities, agents ran an operation, under direct verbal control of headquarters, to sell off stolen property (cigarettes and tobacco). They didn’t do this as a smuggling sting as they have done before, but to raise money secretly for further clandestine, off-the-books and outside-the-law operations. The New York Times received the leak (probably as a result of the Mob War of Succession between the Ron Turk and Tom Brandon “families” in ATF HQ):

How that arrangement began is unclear. Ryan Kaye, an A.T.F. supervisor, testified that the [slush fund] was created “as a result of verbal directives from the A.T.F. program office and other headquarters officials.” Mr. Kaye’s full statement is sealed, but excerpts are cited in one publicly available document.

Verbal directives, i.e. “commit nothing to writing,” are not a standard or remotely legal way of doing any undercover operation. They are, in fact, a crime.

We smell the Chief Counsel’s Office, ATF’s equivalent of the Ninth Ring of Perdition. The only other ATF agent publicly identified as involved in the years-long fraud is one Thomas Lesnak, since retired, but dozens of ATF officials seem to have been involved — and, possibly, to have profited.

The operation came to light because the ATF and its informants cheated a group of tobacco farmers out of $24 million, for which the victims are now suing. At least $1M of the farmers’ money was skimmed by the ATF on behalf of each of two of the ATF’s paid informants, Jason Carpenter and Christopher Small. The whereabouts of the other $22 million are unknown at this time — spent on undercover operations, pocketed by agents or supervisors, or some combination of the above, most likely.

The Obama Justice Department fought a battle to keep the corruption trial out of the press, and until something happened in January, the New York Times went along.

It gets better… the government denies all wrongdoing, and have gotten a rubber-spined judge to seal nearly all documents in the case. But somehow the IRS has decided that they ought to make an example of the cheated farmers in this case: by demanding they pay taxes on the money the ATF stole from them. Read The Whole Thing™.

It seems like this is a case made for the appointment of a Special Prosecutor.

When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws will have Escalators

Last time we had an escalator death, if we remember right, a Chinese guy fell halfway through one and it went all Cuisinart on him. This time, it’s a relatively routine case of falling off. Of the escalator pictured right, down to the nice hard floor.

As is usual in these cases, it wasn’t the fall that hurt her, but the sudden stop at the end.

An adventure-loving substitute teacher from New Jersey fell to her death in the World Trade Center’s Oculus transit hub — toppling off a high escalator while reaching for a hat dropped by her twin sister.

Tragic twins Jenny and Jessica Santos, 29, had been heading for a PATH train home to Kearny, NJ at 5:30 a.m. Saturday morning after a night of partying in the city, law enforcement sources told The Post.

0530. “After a night of partying.” Would it be churlish of us to suggest the presence of Judgment Juice™ in the decedent and her sister?

The two women — described by friends as inseparable — may have been jokingly playing with Jessica’s hat as they rode the escalator down to the concourse level.

But when Jenny grabbed for her twin’s hat as it began to fall, she lost her balance, sources said.

As Jessica watched in horror, Jenny plummeted 30 feet, her body striking the white marble of the concourse floor.

Jessica ran screaming to her sister, but her twin died instantly, a shaken witness recounted.

“There was nothing you could do. She wasn’t going to make it,” said a construction worker, who had been heading for work at 4 World Trade Center. “There was a lot of blood, and the way she was laying … That was it.”

The surviving twin was taken to a nearby hospital for trauma, sources said.

via Woman falls to her death from Oculus escalator | New York Post.

Anything can kill you. Anything. And if you make a habit of sashaying around public places after all-night parties, probably with a skinful of OH radicals, anything probably will.