Breaking: Colt Kicks the Can One Week Forward, Again

colt_logo_mWe have been watching Colt as Monday night was a deadline for bondholders to take up Colt’s decidedly unappetizing bond swap option, or the nearly-as-bad prepack option.

As of 11 PM Colt had not posted the release to their website, so we have much of the background of this story coming out in one scheduled for 0600. But we did just find the release on a British Yahoo Finance news website, that picked it up from Business Wire.

On May 18, 2015, Colt Defense LLC (“Colt”) and Colt Finance Corp. (“Colt Finance” and together with Colt, the “Issuers”) announced that (i) the “Expiration Date”, the “Consent Expiration Time” and the “Withdrawal Deadline” have been extended to 5:00 p.m., New York City time, on May 26, 2015 for their previously announced exchange offer (the “Exchange Offer”) to exchange their 10.0% Junior Priority Senior Secured Notes due 2023 (the “New Notes”) and the related subsidiary guarantees for any and all outstanding Issuers’ 8.75% Senior Notes due 2017 (the “Old Notes”) and (ii) the “Voting Deadline” and the “Withdrawal Deadline” (only applicable if participating in the Exchange Offer) have been extended to 5:00 p.m., New York City time, on May 26, 2015 for their previously announced solicitation of votes (the “Prepackaged Plan Solicitation”) to the prepackaged plan of reorganization (the “Prepackaged Plan”).

Other related deadlines have also been dropkicked just short of a week ahead from midnight on the 18th to 1700 on the 26th. Despite that, the take-up of the Colt offer among the 10% bondholders (now two weeks into a default) remains very low:

The Issuers announced today preliminary results of the Exchange Offer. As of 5:00 p.m., New York City time, on May 18, 2015, approximately $14.1 million, or 5.65%, of the outstanding principal amount of Old Notes had been validly tendered and not validly withdrawn.

That’s pretty lousy takeup, when they needed… 98%. This is barely a half-percent of movement for the firm since their last can-kicking exercise a week ago. As we quoted their then release:

The Issuers announced today preliminary results of the Exchange Offer. As of midnight, New York City time, on May 11, 2015, which was the previously scheduled “Expiration Date” for the Exchange Offer, approximately $12.7 million, or 5.1%, of the outstanding principal amount of Old Notes had been validly tendered and not validly withdrawn.

At 5.65% they’re still 92.35% short of exchanging the old debt for new. As we noted at the time, and as Colt managers certainly understand, there’s not much hope of closing the gap, and the trends are all against the company. But the new release does hint that something else is up:

The Issuers believe it is in the best interests of their respective stakeholders to actively address their capital structure and have commenced discussions with an ad hoc group of holders of the Old Notes. The Issuers hope that such discussions will result in a consensual restructuring transaction.

Translated from the financial-ese, this suggests that while Colt hasn’t seen much action on its offer of junkier bonds (at a lower rate!) at a large haircut off their current, defaulted junk bonds, it has behind-the-scenes negotiations with some quantity of the holders of these bonds. A “consensual restructuring transaction” lets Colt continue to operate, without being sued into Chapter 11 or Chapter 7 by holders of the defaulted financial instruments.

There’s a little more background in tomorrow morning’s post, actually.

Past Weaponsman.com coverage:

20 Nov 14: Is Colt Going Paws Up? Why? An Analysis

20 Nov 14: No, Colt Didn’t Default

12 Dec 14: Pythons Can’t Save Colt

5 May 15: Is Colt Toast?

12 May 15: Colt Past Financial Deadline, Extends Deadline

 

 

“Locks Keep Honest People Out.” Example #32,767.

We never heard of Samy Kamkar until this Wired article, by Andy Greenberg, hit. Samy’s little gadget is not only a successful automated exploitation of a common combination lock, it’s also a successful exploitation of everybody’s (including our!) fascination with 3D printing… and mischief.

If you’re not impressed with Samy after this, you’re not paying attention. What college taught him all of this? Nothing but hands-on experience, baby. He dropped out of high school.

If you want your own Combo Breaker, the 3D models and source code live on Samy’s GitHub. He’s fully on board with open source, as you might expect for someone who came up in the maker community:

https://github.com/samyk/combobreaker

Fortunately, your locked stuff is still safe, because who’s really going to build one of these things?

Except, you can do it by hand, too. Voilà:

OK, but in the first video he shows you a little of how to make an automated version (there’s a follow-up coming). In the second one he shows you how to do it by hand — with his website crunching the numbers for you. Do you want to really know what’s going on here — inside the lock? Well, as it happens, he’s got that, too.

Now you know why you didn’t throw away any of those locks you don’t have combinations to. You can find the combinations for them now! Of course, so can anybody else, but if you ever needed more proof of the old adage that, “Locks keep honest people out,” here it is.

This technique may or may not have been taught in a Defense Against Methods of Entry program, and may or may not have analogues on other American and foreign locks.

Samy’s website and twitter feed are very worthwhile if you’re into this stuff.

Where will Samy Kamkar wind up? Well, Apple’s famous two Steves started out making a gadget that would scam free long-distance calls. Under today’s Federal communications laws they’d have been major-league felons before their age of majority.

(Yes, the number in the title outs us as reformed geeks, doesn’t it?)

When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Promontories

bouncePeople say having guns in the house is risky. This is silly, of course: getting shot with guns is what’s risky. In the house, they just sit there.

But even getting shot pales, as far as risk goes, compared to BASE jumping. BASE jumping may be the most deadly sport extant: while it stands for Buildings, Antennas, Spans [bridges], and Earth [mountains and cliffs], the things that BASE jumpers jump from, it might as well be an acronym for what ultimately happens to them:

  • Bounce
  • Auger (in)
  • Splat
  • (the) End.

Or as we used to say, they come down with “deceleration sickness.” Many, many BASE jumpers die, sooner or later. The couple of people we knew who did it wound up dying. Meanwhile, most of the people who got shot, didn’t. It’s safer, catching an AK round in the boiler room, actually.

The latest bouncers were a pair of buddies who leapt off a “promontory” in the stunning scenery of California’s Yosemite National Park, only to become one with that scenery, and not in a Guru Pitka way.

Extreme athlete Dean Potter, renowned for his bold and sometimes rogue climbs and BASE jumps, was one of two men killed while attempting a wingsuit flight in Yosemite National Park, a park spokesman said Sunday.

Someone called for help late Saturday after losing contact with Potter, 43, and his climbing partner, Graham Hunt, 29. They had jumped from a 7,500-foot promontory called Taft Point, park ranger Scott Gediman said.

The two decedents reportedly jumped from Taft Point, on the left (where the people are standing).

The two decedents reportedly jumped from Taft Point, on the left (where the people are standing).

He said a search-and-rescue team looked for the men overnight but couldn’t find them. On Sunday morning, a helicopter crew spotted their bodies in Yosemite Valley.

No parachutes had been deployed.

BASE jumping is an acronym for fixed objects in which someone can parachute from: building, antenna, span, and Earth (such as a cliff). The sport is illegal in all national parks, and it was possible the men jumped at dusk or at night to avoid being caught by park rangers.

For more information you can Read The Whole Thing™.

Many of the founders and low-numbered luminaries of the sport of BASE jumping have died doing it. It is, of course, their lives and their right to risk them. That doesn’t stop authorities in many places from seeking to ban, restrict, or regulate the activity.

BASE jumping is banned in Yosemite National Park, to prevent fatal mishaps. So instead they do the already-hyper-risky activity in the freaking dark, where the risk is off all charts. How’s that working out?

We personally think Dean Potter was out of his ever-loving mind, but it was his asterisk, as the expression goes. What did he say about risk?

Though sometimes I have felt like I’m above it all and away from any harm, I want people to realize how powerful climbing, extreme sports or any other death-consequence pursuits are. There is nothing fake about it whether you see it in real life, on YouTube or in a glamorous commercial.

“Nothing fake about it.” Men have died for less. Dean Potter and his jump buddy Graham Hunt, ave atque vale. 

Very Rare SEAL Taxi Offered on eBay

Before we get to the shell of a historic mini-sub that made a brief appearance on eBay last week, we should take a look at the history — always noting that We Are Not Frogs and, just as importantly, We Were Not There, so all this is subject to revision by those who do have inside information — if they ever feel like talking, which they haven’t, much, to date. (Contrary to popular opinion, not every SEAL gets a book agent’s contact info engraved on the back of his shiny new Trident. Most of them clam up as well as their fellow quiet professionals in other branches).

It all started when World War II ended, and the contracting Royal Navy shared its underwater technology with its American cousins. While the US had developed excellent combat swimmer units in the Navy’s UDTs, and early SCUBA gear of several kinds in the highly compartmented OSS Maritime Unit program, the UK had a capability the US couldn’t touch: machines that could deliver a swimmer, and more to the point, a very large high-explosive charge, over considerable distances — underwater. So the US accepted the gift of “chariots” (the British improvement on the Italian Siluro a Lento Corsa [SLC]“low speed torpedo” and Siluro San Bartolomeo), and of a quantity of “X-Craft,” miniature submarines. The chariots proved to be highly limited, and not very popular; but the frogmen loved the X-Craft.

Italian Siluro a Lente Corsa. The Chariot was a reverse-engineered and Anglicized version.

Italian Siluro a Lente Corsa. The Chariot was a reverse-engineered and Anglicized version.

Until Big Haze Gray officiated at a turf battle between what was then the UDT community and what was, and still is, the  Submarine Service. The Sub Service was massive, full of admirals, had been critical to WWII victory and had a vision of an all-nuclear fleet that would put the Navy back in the strategic-warfare game. Those sub admirals also had a profound jealousy of anything else that dipped under the waves, in what they considered King Neptune’s — and their own — personal territory. The UDT community was tiny and could maybe latch on to one Captain. An agreement was hammered out — that is to say, dictated to the nascent special warfare community — that limited the UDT (and their offshoot, the SEALs) forevermore to wet subs like the Chariot. The Navy promised to support the frogmen, but the submarine service would take charge of that.

One look at the Not-Invented-Here X-Craft, and the Submarine Service sent them to scrap. They also took over a minisub the frogmen had been developing — and scrapped it, too. The choices were: wait for the Submarine Service to support you with a dry sub, which was never going to happen, or develop your own free-flooding wet sub.

So UDTs spent significant time in the 1950s trying to develop a better wet sub. (Indeed, the SEALs are still trying to develop a better wet sub). This remains a major unforced limitation on SEAL capabilities — the problem is, any wet sub can either [1] operate in the tropics or [2] deliver hypothermic SEALcicles in the temperate zones, arctic or in areas of cold currents. Meanwhile, the subs built for general sub service have gotten ever bigger and more coastal-shy over the decades, meaning the frogs are looking at a longer ride in the wet sub at best, or leaving missions on the table for lack of clandestine infiltration capability.

The early Swimmer Delivery Vehicles (SDVs) were… well, we can charitably chalk them up as learning tools. Orr Kelly wrote in his SEAL/UDT history, Brave MenDark Waters:

Then, in the mid 50s, came the Mark 2, built by Aerojet General according to a design from General Electric. From the outside, the Mark 2 looked like a little airplane, with the two-man crew sitting side-by-side. Inside, it would very much like a 1956 Ford pick up. [Naval Coastal Systems Center ocean-engineering head WT “Tom”] Odum says the designers reasoned that the crew members would find the little craft extremely claustrophobic but that they would be more comfortable in familiar surroundings, so they modeled it after the interior of a popular truck.

Aerojet SEAL SDV Mk2 period photo

The Mark 2 was the Navy’s first effort at a sophisticated swimmer delivery vehicle. It was powered by silver zinc batteries, used a gyroscopic compass, and was equipped both with a hovering system and with thrusters that permitted it to maneuver left, right, up, and down.

Unfortunately, it was, as Odum says, “a hydrodynamic nightmare – it just didn’t have any stability.” The little craft never got beyond the experimental stage. It was so unstable that it could not even be towed through the water until it had been pulled up onto a large sheet of plywood.

At that point, Kelly drops the SDV program and picks it up in a paragraph or three with the Vietnam-era experimental Mark 6. Assuming the original dry sub that was sub-napped and sent to bureaucratic Davy Jones’s Locker by the Submarine Service was the Mark 1, the Marks 3, 4, and 5 were probably intermediate submersibles. This period photo shows numerous early SDVs including the Mark 2… some of the other experiments here may have been some of those little known intermediate numbers. The SDV Mark 2 is third from the left. The small pod on the far right may be a Mark 1 Swimmer Propulsion Unit, another experimental device that was not fielded in quantity. The three machines between the Mark 2 and the possible Mark 1 SPU may all three be a single kind of machine with different transparencies fitted.

Early SDVs

It is unknown how many SDV Mark 2s were manufactured — given its poor performance under test, there may have been only one. But, almost miraculously, one of these early efforts survived. It showed up on sale on eBay with the following blurb:

interesting 2 man wet submarine by defense contractor AeroJet General for Navy Seal use. It has been salvage non operating with missing parts. for years and it probably more of a collector or decorator item needing at least refurbishment or cosmetics. It is about 20 feet long and is pretty heavy Local pickup in central Indiana. sold in “as is where is” condition. Questions call xxx-yyy-zzzz. The black and white photos are from a rare book about seals.

Unmistakably the same craft.

Unmistakably the same craft.

One gets the impression that no naval architect or hydrodynamicist was let within many miles of this design effort. The sources of the instability seem obvious. It looks like the interesting interior fitments are gone, and it looks like there may have been some kind of thrusters on fins or dive planes forward of the doors.

SDV Mk2 03It’s pickup heritage doesn’t seem too occult in these pictures. How it got to Indiana is an interesting question — the SDV program remains today very sensitive, very close hold, and the Navy has not been above doing research in the desert, hundreds of miles from the sea. Maybe it passed through NAVSEA Crane?

SDV Mk2The seller has since withdrawn this old UDT bus from the eBay sale — perhaps a museum has expressed interest.

SDV Mk2 02

 

If some Dr Evil has visions of deploying the SDV Mark 2 in the sea again, all we can say is, good luck with that. The US Navy never got this thing going, and they have more money than God. You can’t spend your way around faulty design.

Of course, as this guy in Indiana shows, you can display it on your lawn.

 

 

Pennsylvania State Police Fails at Guns, But Tracks Yours. Ineptly.

Pennsylvania_State_PoliceWe have written, and written, and written yet again, about the Pennsylvania State Police’s awkward relationship with service pistol selection, training, and employment.

After a run of accidents with one brand, they recently changed guns and brands again, again. And managed to shoot one of their own troopers to death on his first day training with the new pistol.

It was his instructor who shot him.

This demonstrates that no one should consider himself above following the most basic firearms safety rules, “A.N.D.”:

  1. Assume it’s loaded and act that way (actually, we would say, assume it’s live; don’t trust safety features);
  2. Never point it at anything you don’t want to shoot;
  3. Digit off the bangulator until it’s bang o’clock.

Failure to observe these rules, whether or not it results in a discharge, whether or not the discharge creams some poor throg or just rockets off to a rendesvous with some part of Mother Gaia, is gross negligence. Yeah, we’re aware the courts don’t say that. The courts are wrong, on this. Had that instructor introducing the SIG 227 (not to mention, all the guys who shot themselves, their wives, suspects, and bystanders “accidentally” with the outgoing Glocks) followed even one of those three rules (or the four, or seven, or twenty-eleven rules some lists include, all of which include some version of these three), we would have never heard about that training class. We haven’t yet had a few years to see if the PSP is safer with the SIG than they were with the Glocks. This wasn’t an encouraging start.

They’re Also Teaching This

This SIG, an OK service pistol compared to other 70s-80s Double-Action/Single-Action auto pistol designs, is their first DA/SA pistol since the .40 S&W Caliber Beretta 96. They used Berettas (92s and 96s) for a while, before moving to Glock in .40, then to .45 GAP, then to .45 ACP, then to SIG. (That recap may have missed a couple. Hey, it’s been great for hobbyists who like to have pistols with the PSP logo: collect ’em all!).

Any DA/SA has a different manual of arms than the simpler Glock, and the PSP’s SIG 227 in particular has more to master than the firearm that it replaces. So they’re teaching their troopers… what? If they have a “long shot,” to manually cock the hammer before firing. Yes, this improves first-shot hit probability, but it adds a layer of complexity to what is already one of the more complex DA/SA systems.

We agree that there are training advantages to the SIG system where one lever does one thing and one thing only and always, but it’s more complex than the simple Walther hammer-drop safety that’s been around since 1929. And it’s a big change for a force of 4,000 or so cops, of whom perhaps 3,500 really couldn’t care less about guns, and who are mostly of average intelligence, just like the usual run of citizens.

The complexities of a service weapon change can always be overcome with good training and lots of drill, but it’s an open question, after the recent shooting, how good the training is; and you know and we know, and the PSP knows, that the troopers — possibly excepting recruits in Academy classes — are not going to get as much drill as they need to master the SIG operating system. The 500 or so who take firearms seriously will give themselves this drill on their own. Hell, there are probably 100 or so who compete or shoot recreationally, and take inordinate pride in their mastery of their sidearm. But you’ve got to reach the average guy and gal with in-service firearms training.

And that’s something a lot of trainers, who became trainers because they love, live and breathe firearms and shooting, don’t “get” instinctively. They assume everybody’s as into guns as they are. (If they train for long enough, the scales fall from their eyes. Big time).

Fact is, a lot of cops take improving their skill with guns as seriously as the typical office worker takes improving his or her typing speed. “Meh. I passed the qual, I’m good to hook.”

That only works if the qual is really good, tough, and criterion-referenced to the sorts of shots officers have to take in the real and gritty world. Like the old-school (pre-TSA-dumbdown) Air Marshals’ qual, or the qual that another government agency uses for its contract personal-security detachment contractors. (And those were/are quals with consequences: meet the standard, or hit the bricks, even if you have seniority).

Personally, we consider cocking the hammer for the first shot from a DA/SA service pistol to be an advanced technique for someone that has already mastered the firearm and the course of fire. Obviously, we have a difference of opinion with the Pennsylvania State Police firearms trainers on that.

Is that a SIG he's reaching for? If so, you know whose training range this is....

Is that a SIG he’s reaching for? If so, you know whose training range this is….

Hey, We’re All Ate Up About Guns, But We’re Databasing Yours. All Wrong.

The Federal agent who works in one of Pennsylvania’s largest and most violent cities was blunt. Pennsylvania says they don’t have a registry.

“Then how come law enforcement can call up and ask if someone has firearms?” Not, he said, that the database is any earthly use to a line agent. “It is my experience that you go with the opposite of what the PSP says. I let them tell me what the database says. And then I assume the opposite.”

“Oh,” we said. “You mean, because if the gun’s registered, even if he has it, he’s probably not a cop shooter? And if he comes up no-gun, he might be a gangbanger who got his guns on the black market?”

“You don’t get it. I assume the opposite, because their database is so ate up it’s usually 180º off. If they say no, I get the body armor on and a long gun. If they say yes, I don’t bother.”

“Wow.” We thought he was exaggerating. He emphasized that he wasn’t; he really so mistrusts the PA registration database that he uses it the way most of us use a Fidel Castro presidential endorsement. “Because the database is always wrong,” he repeated.

Trust Us or Else

 

“I have arrested [men with serious/violent prior felony convictions and multiple legal ownership disqualifications].” (Edited to remove an exact description and prevent people guessing his agency). “They had felony convictions that were evident. They had the PA registry forms in the box with their handguns, and the PSP said he has no guns. These were not new sales either, so they [the PSP] had time to get it [the pistol ownership record] in there.”

PA Reg form

 

So the system, in PA, is not preventing career criminals from doing something they don’t even try in most states, buying guns themselves in legitimate commerce!

And just to complicate things, the registry has no way to take a gun off once it’s sold out of state. So it’s packed with tens of thousands (at least) of firearms that (1) are extremely unlikely to surface at a PA crime scene, and (2) will “trace” to the wrong guy, if they do. What use is that? Pennsylvania gun-rights advocates go a step farther, arguing that the database, a typically lousy product of government work though it may be, is unlawful.  Indeed, black-letter Pennsylvania law () says:

[N]othing in this chapter [6111.4, the gun laws — Eds.] shall be construed to allow any government or law enforcement agency or any agent thereof to create, maintain or operate any registry of firearm ownership….

and

[N]othing in 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 6101-6122 [the DV laws] shall be construed to allow any person or entity to create, maintain or operate a database or registry of firearm ownership….

But case law has essentially nullified those provisions. For the anti take on it, see the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a group that promotes registration as a necessary step towards confiscation (see also here). Pro-gun viewpoints can be found at two state pro-gun groups, FOAC and PAFOA. The PA Supreme Court has ruled that the prohibition doesn’t apply to the State Police database precisely because it is so bad and inaccurate.

 

Despite that, anti-gun chiefs here and there encourage cops to run the serial numbers of firearms and then confiscate if they don’t come up to the person in possession. The legal support for that is weak, but it’s a way to confiscate legally-owned guns and/or make The database has been criticized by some lawmakers, all significant pro-gun groups in the state, and the PSP was excoriated for it during an FBI audit, according to a lawmaker opposed to the database.

As far back as 2000, the PSP response to legislator criticisms was to release a letter, ostensibly to the legislator, to an anti-gun activist, Jonathan D. Silver. Silver wrote about the PSP’s position in the anti-gun Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. While Silver interviewed the legislator neither he nor the PP-G made any attempt to discuss  with him the letter that was the PSP’s “reply” — which the ostensible recipient hadn’t actually received. (It’s unclear if any attempt was made to send it to him, or if it was only written for the benefit of Silver, the newspaper, and the PSP’s allies in antigun groups).

The case law, thanks to careful judge-swapping by the PSP and a succession of anti-gun Attorneys General, has allowed the PSP to retain this useless database so far. Some legislators continue to fight it. (That was his 2013 repeal; here’s some info about  his current-session version.

Bottom Line

These guys can’t buy guns and get the magazine capacity it says on the box; they can’t even operate their own guns safely; they can’t hold a bozo instructor who kills a student with an ND accountable; they can’t even run an illegal registry straight, to the point where it’s so jacked up the Supreme Court said, “We can’t count this worthless crap as a registry.”

LEOs agree; the information in the database is at best worthless, at worst, completely inverse.

Suggestion for the new, kinda-Stolen-Valor Commissioner from Maryland:  Fix your own guys’ firearms training, first. The public only has confidence in the firearms ability of the State Troopers to the extent they’re not paying attention. Then, when you’ve got that fixed (and it’s a big job that probably requires a bunch of difficult firings), figure out why the hell you’re wasting money on a worthless database, whose worthlessness was the technicality that saved it from doom at the hands of the Supreme Court.

Will he take that suggestion? Well, he was selected for his creativity in stretching statutes in service of anti-gun politics. What do you think? In a long tenure in Maryland, he did nothing to improve firearms training there. He doesn’t even believe people who disagree with him should have first amendment rights.

The troopers of the Pennsylvania State Police are not really any different from the cops in any other agency. What is different is the leadership. As Napoleon said, “There are no bad regiments, only bad colonels.” Of course from the bad leaders’ point of view, there are no bad leaders, only bad luck.

Pennsylvanians: brace yourselves for more bad luck.

Sunday Sprayin’

You can envision this dirge being sung by the fictional characters of your choice:

Etch and prime, Etch and prime
It’s what we’re doing all the time.
And that is how our work begins.
When you build semi-monocoque
You first must spray, and cough, and choke;
That is (and we are sure you’ve heard)
Once all is drilled, shaped and deburred —
Attention to all details, wretch!
Spray, then rinse to stop the etch.
Etch and prime on ribs and skins.

And oh, yeah, we need to set up the new lights over the new, improved gun bench. Somewhere in all that we hope to raise a prayer of thanks, in a guilty nod to what Sabbaths used to be.

So how’s your Sunday shaping up?

The Fat Lady Sings for Maryland’s Ballistics Imaging Program

fat_lady_singsAfter a ten-year experiment with the moral equivalent of King Canute’s chair, one of the most anti-gun States in the Union is about to sing the final dirge for what anti-gun groups still promote as an “anti-crime” technology — not because it solves crimes1 but because it inconveniences and punishes gun owners. Inconveniencing and punishing gun owners was fine with Maryland politicians, but the inconvenience and punishment to the state’s budget for a non-usable technology: a ballistics imaging database, into which all guns passing in lawful commerce in Maryland were to be entered.

A stored sample and casing from a 2011 study selling overselling IBIS technology

A stored sample bullet and casing from a 2011 study selling overselling next-generation IBIS technology

The system never produced a single conviction, and, indeed, only six “hits” in all its years of operation. (The Washington Post’s anti-gun reporters Ruben Castaneda and David Snyder once falsely reported that the system had produced a conviction, but that’s the Post for you; the trial transcript shows that the murderer was convicted on eyewitness testimony, ballistics did match bullet to gun using traditional optical-comparator methods, and there was no testimony placing the straw-purchased murder weapon in the murderer’s hands).

Both houses of the Maryland General Assembly in the past week acted in near unanimity to end that state’s decade-long dysfunctional experience with what was once billed as a crime scene investigative tool, but that was never used to solve a single crime.  In fact, the ballistics imaging program now on its way out was unsupported by the very state police charged with operating it and had been unfunded for years.

And yet firearms manufacturers, Maryland’s firearms retailers and law-abiding firearms purchasers continued to bear the costs of this ill-conceived and moribund program for years and will continue to do so until October when the collection of cartridge casings will finally cease.  New York was the only other state to so encumber its state crime lab with unlamented ballistics imaging technology and had already discarded it as a costly failure that never solved a single crime in the Empire state.

via Maryland Ends Ballistics Imaging Program and Provides a Lesson | NSSF Blog.

The Maryland State Police, like gun owners, knew the Maryland Integrated Ballistics Identification System (MIBIS, MD-IBIS or Maryland IBIS) was a turkey all along; within a year of the startup of the system, they knew they hated wasting money that could have gone for effective programs like DNA testing on the useless gun database, the NRA noted at the time.

In the end, the Maryland State Police report provides three primary recommendations: 1) discontinue the program and moth-ball the equipment; 2) enact legislation repealing the current law to require collection of casings; and 3) transfer personnel and funds to the state DNA database program.

The report concludes that MD-IBIS “has not proven to be a time saving tool for the Firearms Examiner or an investigative enhancement to the criminal investigator. It has simply failed in the Mission and Vision concepts originally established for the Program.”

That’s from 2005. Anti-gun politicians kept the system alive for ten more years after that, claiming that it was fighting crime when all it was doing was burning a hole in the budget for actual crime fighting.

Those accountable have been fired — true or false? (Of course, false. There is no accountability in government).

The DOJ and anti-gun activist Anthony Braga at Harvard’s JFK School of Big Government are still pushing this failed initiative, as are the anti-gun groups.

A lot of forensic science is not especially scientific, with the so-called scientists and technicians forming part of the prosecution team. Sometimes they are so eager to help the prosecutors that they lean on the evidence a little, or a lot.2 Others are certified by diploma mills3.

Meanwhile, Maryland can at least spend its forensics money on proven DNA analysis. Finally.

Notes

  1. Forensic ballistic matching does not stand on solid scientific ground, which is surprising to people raised on TV shows like CSI: Unrealistically Attractive Cops solve Unimaginably Impossible Cases. In fact, there are questions about the solidity or lack of the same of the underlying science — links are to ABA and National Academies of Science reports — more here.
  2. In Massachusetts, crime lab chemist Annie Dookhan falsified tests in over 20,000 cases involving over 40,000 defendants. Lots of criminals got out of prison because of her misconduct… and Dookhan got in, for five years.
  3. One credentialing authority generally accepted in courts has exams with “questions suitable for a grade school child,” and once certified a cat. That’s CSI in the real world.

UPDATE 20150516 2359

Just have to note: The Washington Post, which was so anxious to see a Maryland IBIS success story that it had two of its reporters (and layers and layers of editors) make one up, still hasn’t got around to reporting on Maryland’s decision to kill the database. We guess it takes time to make $#!+ up.

Commentary (Magazine) on Iraq: Two Articles Worth a Read

The Iraqi flag increasingly marks Shia militia under Iranian command.

The Iraqi flag increasingly marks Shia militia under Iranian command.

Commentary magazine has two good articles on the current situation in Iraq, which is, in a word, deplorable. It was so damned unnecessary; the place was on its way to a new order of stability, but then we did the bugout for domestic-political purposes, and it went to Hell before anyone could even pick up the handbasket.

Max Boot, a rare defense commentator who’s also been a, shall we say, practitioner, has an article entitled Focus on Obama’s Terrible Iraq Blunder. Which is just what he does.

I remember walking down the ruined streets of Ramadi in the spring of 2007. The vista resembled pictures of Berlin in 1945: ruined buildings everywhere, water bubbling in the streets from water mains damaged by too many explosions. But what was most remarkable was not the evidence of violence but, rather, the fact that no insurgents were shooting at my military escorts or me.
“A few weeks ago you couldn’t drive down this street without being attacked. When I went down this street in February, I was hit three times with small-arms fire and IEDs,” Army Colonel John W. Charlton told me as we drove into town in his up-armored Humvee. But now Ramadi was eerily quiet; by the time I visited in April, not a single American soldier had been killed in Ramadi for weeks.

Ramadi, of course, is the focus of the current ISIL (ISIS if you will) offensive.

ISIL doing their thing. The guy with the AK seldom misses at this range. So he's a better fit in his job than GEN Dempsey.

ISIL doing their thing. The guy with the AK seldom misses at this range. So he’s a better fit in his job than GEN Dempsey.

This is definitely worthy of the Read The Whole Thing™ tag, except, if you’re the sort of person that reads this blog, you have already read widely enough there will be little new in Boot’s analysis. He just piles all the … stuff… into one noxious heap.

ISIL flagThe second article is actually a book review, by journalist Michael J. Totten, of ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror by Michael Weiss & Hassan Hassan. It is a perfect companion piece to Boot’s article; like Boot, Totten spent time on the ground in Iraq, and saw a perhaps unnecessary invasion turned decisive victory, turned chaos with a single monumental blunder (whether you ID that blunder as Paul Bremer’s brain-dead release of the Iraqi military, or President Bush’s brain-dead nomination of Beltway wallah Bremer as Iraq’s answer to Macarthur’s post-war management of Japan. Have ever two men diverged in ability more than Macarthur and Bremer?)

Naturally, there were no consequences to Bremer for his disastrous performance, which directly spawned the initial, Ba’athist insurgency, and led to the Islamist insurgencies that replaced it and were only temporarily forestalled by the Anbar Awakening. The self-interested actions by Sunni Iraqis, by Shia leaders, by Iran and Syria, all have fed the rise of ISIL/ISIS. Totten:

When ISIS fighters conquered the Iraqi city of Mosul last year, they stole enough materiel to supply three fighting divisions, including up-armored American Humvees, T-55 tanks, mobile Chinese artillery pieces, Soviet anti-aircraft guns, and American-made Stinger missile systems. ISIS controls a swath of territory the size of Great Britain and is expanding into Libya and Yemen.

ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan, paints a gripping and disturbing picture of this new “caliphate” in the Levant and Mesopotamia. In the most comprehensive account to date, the authors chronicle ISIS’s roots as the Iraqi franchise of al-Qaeda under its founding father, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, its near defeat at the hands of Americans and Iraqi militias in Anbar Province, its rebirth during the Syrian civil war, and its catastrophic return to Iraq as a conquering army last summer.

The book is personal for both authors. Hassan was born and raised in the Syrian border town Al-Bukamal, right in the center of ISIS-held territory. Weiss is an American journalist who reported from the Aleppo suburb of al-Bab, back when it had a burgeoning democratic civil-society movement and wasn’t the “dismal fief ruled by Sharia law” it is today. Anger and disgust are at times palpable on the page, but emotion never distracts from the richly detailed narrative—based in part on interviews with ISIS commanders and fighters—that forms the backbone of their book.

It does not help that our uniformed leadership at this time is what happens when you let political suck-ups and Courtney Massengales rise to the top — not like the cream, more like the scum atop the primordial ooze of politics. Back to Boot, for a few words about CJSC Martin Dempsey, one of the emptiest suits, emptiest heads, and emptiest characters ever to stuff himself full of naked ambition and jam into the Chairman’s chair.

Just a month ago, when the ISIS offensive against Ramadi began in earnest, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tried to reassure the world that it was no big deal. Ramadi, he claimed, “is not symbolic in any way…. I would much rather that Ramadi not fall, but it won’t be the end of a campaign should it fall.”

Hey, guys, wake up, Dempsey says it's no big deal. Uh... guys?

Hey, guys, wake up, Dempsey says it’s no big deal. Uh… guys?

We can only watch and wait to hear what spin General Dempsey—who has increasingly defined his role as telling the president what he wants to hear, not what he needs to hear—will put on this latest catastrophe. It is, in fact, unspinnable. The fall of Ramadi is a sign of the abysmal failure of the misnamed Operation Inherent Resolve launched by President Obama in August 2014 to “degrade” and ultimately to “destroy” ISIS. Operation Uncertain Resolve is more like it.

As Boot points out, the vaunted “massive air strikes” are a couple of dozen sorties a day, defining a sortie as an individual aircraft; some of those are reconnaissance sorties, so the enemy are not receiving even two squadron-sized strikes. Shock and awe this is not; it is playing at soldiers, except risking the real lives of US and Coalition airmen, something that bothers Martin Dempsey not a bit, as he tries to figure out how to launch from this position to something in the NGO world. Meanwhile, the rest of us watch the spectacle of a small man’s weak character split asunder by the great man’s share of ambition that the small man could not expect to contain.

Meanwhile, in the key leadership positions of the terrorist anti-state, the Ba’thist functionaries of Saddam Hussein are having the last laugh. Back to Totten:

The first thing ISIS does when conquering a new city or town is set up the grisly machinery for medieval punishments in town squares. “Letting black-clad terrorists run around a provincial capital,” Weiss and Hassan write, “crucifying and beheading people, made for great propaganda.” It was all Assad could do to ensure the Obama administration wouldn’t pursue a policy of regime-change as it had in Libya and as the previous administration had in Iraq.

There was a precedent for this perverted Baathist-Islamist alliance. Osama bin Laden had declared the “socialist infidels” of Saddam’s government worthy allies against Americans, and the remnants of Iraq’s ancien régime—what Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld mistakenly called the dead enders—felt the same way. As a result, Weiss and Hassan note, “most of [AQI’s] top decision-makers served either in Saddam Hussein’s military or security services.”

The authors make a compelling case that ISIS “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is a would-be Saddam Hussein in religious garb. “Even though he is originally from Samarra,” they write, “his chosen nom de guerre, al-Baghdadi, immediately situates the Iraqi capital as ISIS’s center of gravity, which it was under the Abbasid caliphate, itself an important Islamic touchstone for the dead Iraqi dictator.” Yet ISIS’s leader, like Zarqawi before him, is even more genocidal than Iraq’s former strongman. Al-Baghdadi has “so far demonstrated nothing short of annihilationist intention…To ISIS, the Shia are religiously void, deceitful, and marked only for death.”

But that’s OK. The US has its great new ally, Iran. Everything’s coming up roses… or, if not roses, at least red.

SHOT Show Tire Kickers with Media Badges

Shot-ShowCaleb at Gun Nuts Media posts an interesting question: are too many looky-lous admitted with media credentials? The SHOT Show is months away, but it’s not too early to start thinking about it. After all, anybody who’s been on the trade show cycle knows that planning for next year’s is already underway as exhibitors wrap up this year’s.

As we intended to go with media credentials (this intention was OBE), we wonder if we’re the kind of guy he means.

[H]ave media standards gotten too lo[o]se at industry shows?

He follows up with:

I remember my first SHOT Show, in 2008. I had no business being there; my blog was small with limited readership, and really I was just some asshole who liked guns but had the right connections to get a media badge at SHOT.

You don’t need “connections,” you know. NSSF is extremely liberal with media credentialing for new media, and in general it has worked well for spreading word about the industry and the sport. Some of the other shows are rather more selective.

Now, I’m still just some asshole who likes guns, but I do this for a living now. It’s funny how that changes my perception of who should and shouldn’t be at shows.

Well, he’s showing some self-awareness here.

What further complicates this issue is that each show is a different audience.For example, SHOT and NASGW are trade shows – not technically open to the public, so I feel that they should enforce tighter standards on media than at a show like NRA, which is open to the public.

via Should the firearms industry tighten the admission standards for media at trade shows? | Gun Nuts Media.

In fact, it’s probably easier to get media credentials with NSSF (for SHOT) than with NRA. It’s not a lot of skin off our back either way — we suspect that WeaponsMan is successful enough to qualify either way; we’re pretty successful for an ad-less blog, with consistent and steady improvement in our “circulation”.

We wanted to respond to him, but by the time we saw his Tax Day post, he’d closed comments. So instead, we’re responding here.

The General Problem of Popularity and Trade Shows

Caleb puts his finger on it when he identifies the problem as being a sea of people, most of whom are absolutely no use to you. (You can take the Ed Brown approach and just be rude to them because they’re beneath you, of course… but just because it appears to work for Brown, doesn’t mean it will work for you, especially if you’re not yet established). The real problem is, you don’t know which of those people whom you don’t know will be useful to you. Maybe that kid there is a Caleb who is going to break out of the pack. Maybe that middle-aged dude over there who looks like every other middle-aged looky-lou is a retired SF trooper some of whose readers spend tens of thousands on guns… and some of them, on one gun.

Then again, maybe that recognizable YouTube face is the kind of guy who only will praise your stuff if he gets free or discounted stuff, or, worse in terms of integrity, a guy who will praise your stuff only if he gets free or discounted stuff. (The difference is subtle, but both types exist. Anybody in the industry can tell you). That’s one reason we don’t take free stuff here1, and have resisted selling ads.

Any time you have too many pursuing a good that not all can have, you have to come up with a system of rationing. The way this has been done, historically, is by price. Trade groups are loath to charge media to attend, but they probably should consider it, with discounts on the backside for “friendly” small media.

How Another Industry Does it

The largest airshow in the world is the Experimental Aviation Association annual Airventure in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Despite the fact that shooting is much more popular than building your own plane, Airventure, which lasts a week, is substantially larger than SHOT or the NRA Annual Meeting. But EAA has a slick media operation that works very smoothly. There are very few paid staffers (who work like coolies!); most of the staff are member volunteers. (This is made possible, in part, by the fact that they hold the show in the same place every year. Harder to pull off with a show that travels around).

EAA has made it possible for successful national, local and trade media to set up their own structures on their grounds and have their own newsrooms onsite, in semi-permanent pavilions or in job-site temporary offices.

A subset of the same media that do Airventure also attend purer trade shows like that of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), and the Helicopter Association International (HAI). We’ve attended all those events in a media role, and are welcome back, so we’ve evolved an idea of best practices for the organization, the media, and businesses.

The Show Sponsor should:

  • Provide a press conference venue. This should be a room, with chairs, a lectern, a computer-projector, and a kid who knows how to use the projector on call for when the exhibitors boze out trying to run it. Note that every exhibitor will want the morning slots on the first day, trying to be the “It Girl” of the show. You can auction these slots, for the org or for charity, or simply let them go first-come-first served. The room size and schedule have to be hammered out as far in advance as you can. You will still have to have some empty slots for the pop-up exhibitor.
  • Plan for the 5% that does not get the word, accommodate them, but not at the expense of the exhibitors who follow every rule — doing it right should never be punished.
  • Provide a press-release center. EAA has a series of tables where releases and packets can be left, and a lot of cubbies and bins for releases. This needs to be someplace only the press and exhibitors can access, or exhibitors’ $50+ press packets will never get them a line of media exposure. That means you probably have to have a gorgon (but a nice one) guarding the place, in the guise of being on duty to assist.
  • Provide a press working room. If you’re on a low budget, temp tables and folding chairs, lots of electric outlets, and WiFi. Maybe lockers if you have room.  It’s OK to charge for this and important to enforce some kind of limits to keep “press” from homesteading and fighting over “their” desk. It’s not their damn desk, it’s the organizer’s desk, but press people are as prone as anybody to get jumped-up with vanity.
  • Generally be evenhanded towards the local, trade and specialty, and online press. In most cases, the national press will try to parachute in, if they have an interest, and demand special care and attention. Look, after Geraldo Rivera is gone, your organization will be in the hands of the trade press for the next nine years before Geraldo sees a squirrel in your direction, so having your media management shop tell Geraldo’s producer to pound sand and get in line like everybody else is pure media-relationship gold.
  • You will find, to your chagrin, that what starts as loose and common-sense may wind up rules-bound, as rules get written because of the sphincter muscles in the media.
  • In a worst case, feel free to exclude/expel/have arrested “media” punks who are disruptive. This is as likely to be a national media “face” or producer as it is some self-important blogger.
  • The show organizers should provide business rooms for their exhibitors and attendees to hammer out deals, and these should be one of several areas that are OFF LIMITS to the press. You will know based on sign-up sheets the first time you try this, whether you need more of these rooms. Remember, the best way to ration scarce resources fairly is price… but you may want to include some access to such a room for all your exhibitors, who have, of course, paid you for the privilege.
  • Your own media reps should keep track of several statistics of interest and issue a daily and end-of-show bulletin, to include:
    1. Daily attendance and show-long cumulative, and how this compares to past shows.
    2. Deals done / guns sold / major show events (the show is a great place to announce new products and mergers).
    3. New product intros.
    4. Whatever your organization wants to draw attention to.

This data will make it into dozens if not hundreds of stories. Media people are hungry for it.

  • You should set rules for the press, and violations should have consequences, up to and including decredentialing the reporter and the reporter’s employer or outlet for the year or for longer. Otherwise the unethical reporters ruin it for the other 2% (j/k).

 

Caleb has another point: that the pressure of too many “press” makes it hard for the trade-show exhibitors to get business done. What you need, as an exhibitor, is a bolt-hole where you can take your customers to talk turkey readily accessible to the trade floor, but not accessible to the media scrum or the mass of attendees. This should be off limits to press, even “real” press, for the comfort of your customers. The bigger vendors have a “back room” in their booth (which has pros and cons) or run an invitation-only “hospitality suite” in the show hotel (which has pros and cons of its own). If you’re a small vendor, maybe in a small booth or even sharing a booth, who expects and hopes to sign business at the show, you can’t afford that, yet; we should probably do a whole other post for you. But for starters, make yourself a bolt hole where you can take a client. (One vendor at HAI one year hired a back room at a bar up the street. And proceeded to bring back key media types as well as business counterparties to his “secret show nerve center,” for one-at-a-time schmoozing. And ply them with booze, and swear them to secrecy — about the bar approach, not about the data he was trying to put out. Getting media one-on-one at the show tied him up, but it also tied reporters up and every minute they were with him, they weren’t in the sights of his competitors’ press people).

We should probably do a whole post on how vendors should go about getting press.

Note

  1. In the one exception we can think of to date, to, “we don’t take free stuff,” a frequent commenter here offered us a QD supressor mount/flash hider for our Afghanistan retro M4 project, and we were grateful to take it from him. (It, also, arrived Friday). As we understand it, it was surplus to his needs after he upgraded his suppressor to a different brand. We haven’t named him because this was all discussed back-channel, and if he wants to be named he can say so himself, but we’re very grateful to him.  We owe him at least a favor or an adult beverage at some future date.

Friday Tour d’Horizon Week 20

We’ll cover the usual subjects: Guns, Usage and Employment, Cops ‘n’ Crims, Unconventional (and current) Warfare, and Lord Love a Duck! In the past, these stories would have been dropped as they timed out. Now, we’re trying to have better “tab discipline.” Yeah, we know — rotsa ruck with that.

Guns

We really wanted to write more about these gun stories. So many guns, so few fingers….

Picatinny Arsenal Shows Off

Among the new technologies being demonstrated by Picatinny Arsenal are the developmental Caseless Telescoped ammunition Light Machine Gun, CT-LMG, and a favorite of ours: 3D Printed weapons parts. AAI has been working with Picatinny on the CT-LMG and offered some technical details during NDIA 14. The CT-LMG uses a polymer-cased shortened cartridge to simplify the venerable M249 — and to lighten it by as much as 48%. Ammo, too, has been cut in weight (39%). It also uses an airgapped chamber area, like the M60 barrel, to control heat and prevent cook-off. The 3D printer can, as we’e been saying for some years, produce legacy parts or entirely novel ones. Here’s video of the CT LMG.

Chinese Technology

TFB has a great writeup by Timothy Yan on a Chinese Police & Small Arms expo, based on information and photos he found on Chinese websites. The Chinese may be slow to innovate, but they never stop iterating, and their gear keeps getting better all the time. Man, we wish we could read Chinese (and Japanese, too), but we don’t have any Asian languages at all.

What’s Unusual About Nazis With an MG-34?

When it’s 2014. And in California. (Yeah, it’s a story from last year but we missed it at the time).

Littlerock-raid-1.7

Along with the MG-34, the haul included an AK, what looks like a MAC-11, and a ton of AR magazines (the AR is lying on the table near the MG-34).

A group of alleged White Power geeks were busted with this stash of arms in Littlerock, California, which is near Palmdale in the desert east of LA. Two of the three were felons; at least some of the firearms were stolen.

Honest, Mom, It Followed Us Home. Can We Keep It?

New arrival — the Form 4 came in for the Auto-Ordnance (Kahr) Thompson M1 SBR, so we picked it up today. Some first impressions tomorrow or Monday.  A few ultra-quick notes:

This is a file (factory) photo of the gun in question.

This is a file (factory) photo of the gun in question.

  • The SBR was definitely the right buy for a collector (who can’t swing a transferable gun). The appearance and general gestalt of the gun is right. Of course, we went NFA for 1.3″ of barrel length on an M4, so your mileage may vary.
  • The metal work is a lot better than the Numrich-era 1927 a friend of ours had. For example, the fit of the trigger housing to the receiver is excellent; there’s no cracks in the surface of the casting, etc.
  • That said, none of the edges are broken… this thing has eleventeen ways to cut your skin. Justin Moon may have set Kahr up with millions’ worth of equipment, but they need a few Shaviv deburring tools. Or the will to use some of the files they had.
  • I’d forgotten how uncomfortably heavy the recoil springs on the Numrich/Kahr semi are. Much more than a GI gun. The trigger is long and creepy-crawly, but not heavy. A bit like an AK or SKS, but not so smooth.
  • The finish is not right, a modern black gloss instead of Parkerizing.
  • TSMGs were always heavy, and this one is no exception. The balance is not bad, though.
  • This one’s length of pull strikes us as much longer than the GI tommy guns we’ve shot.

Usage and Employment

The hardware takes you only half way. (We got nothin’ here today. Long story involving a browser crash).

Cops ‘n’ Crims

Cops bein’ cops, crims bein’ crims. The endless Tom and Jerry show of crime and (sometimes instantaneous) punishment.

Flashbang Sentenced to Join Speedbump

rolling_stone_dzhokar_flashbang_coverA Boston jury (!) sentenced Dzhokar Tsarnaev to death. Flashbang’s media fans hardest hit. The Boston Globe editorial offices will be hosting suicide prevention counsellors. They’re so upset at Rolling Stone that they can’t decide what story to assign Sabrina Rubin Erdely to make up.

Pennsylvania State Police Aren’t Just Hosed-up on Guns

But on many other things as well. Embattled nominee for State Police Commissioner, Marcus Brown, hasn’t been confirmed yet, but he’s already bitterly at odds with “his” cops.  Past PSP have worn the uniform only if they came up through PSP; admin weenies and “seagull managers” like Brown have traditionally worn suits. Brown’s first act was to award himself the uniform, outraging rank and file (and especially, union-activist) cops. Then the thin-skinned, brittle Brown compounded his problem by destroying a set of lawn signs criticizing him.

Brown was selected by anti-gun Governor Tom Wolf for PSP based on his record of anti-gun activism in Maryland police agencies. While at the Port Authority Police, he pioneered the technique of running out-of-state plates until one gets a hit indicating an out-of-stater had a gun license, and then pulling the guy over and searching his car on a pretext (like the usual “drug-dog alert”.

We heard today (Friday) that Brown will not be charged for stealing the signs. The Pennsylvania State Senate, though, has taken no move to confirm him

When the Mayor Hates the Cops…

…the cops hate the mayor. And when cops get punished for doing cop work, they find other stuff to do. Anyone surprised that violent crime is “surging” in Baltimore?

Meanwhile, if you’re paying attention, the Dinkins Days are back in Central Park with packs of “teens” robbing and assaulting citizens. “Wilding,” anyone?

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said he’s not concerned

Of course he isn’t. He doesn’t go to the park, and where he does go, he goes armed and with a phalanx of bodyguards. But what could he do, if some faint trace of Vitamin Clue penetrated his phalanx of guards and settled on him? He has a Mayor who sees the criminals as his constituents, and the cops as his enemies. This has several possible final outcomes, most of which resemble the NEw York from the .

Unconventional (and current) Warfare

No, the Paks Didn’t Initiate and Support the Bin Laden Raid

Seymour Hersh, the one-time investigative reporter who long ago devolved into a parody of the worst excesses of the Fourth Estate, has a new conspiracy theory that’s pretty far out even for him: it’s that the Pakistani ISI was keeping Bin Laden on ice in Abbotabad, but they also double-crossed him to the Americans, and then agreed not to resist an American attack.

There may be elements of truth in the story, but they’re like the intact grains of corn occasionally seen in a cow patty. And as has long been usual for a Hersh story, it hangs on a single anonymous source, with a few named sources who go so far as to admit that Hersh’s tale is “plausible.”

There are definitely details in his story that are known to us to be absolutely false.

The Salman Run

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman isn’t wasting his time dancing with a President who’s got a crush on Salman’s main threat, the Islamic Republic of Iran. Even the New York Times, normally better attuned to the dynamics of golf courses that deny women membership, or the problems of getting your Unique And Special Snowflake™ into the right pre-pre-K in Manhattan, than it is to the dynamics of international politics, seems to grasp that this is a “snub.” Gee, the day after the White House announces that Salman is coming to collect his ritual bow from the President, Riyadh announces the King’s sending an underling. What do you think?

Putin’s Agent of Influence: Steve Cohen

Remember what motivates spies? MICER? Money, Ideology, Compromise, Ego, Revenge? The difficulty in pinning down which of these motivates pro-Vladimir Vladimirovich propagandist and alleged historian, Communist Stephen Cohen, is probably less important than the fact that he does, in fact, comport himself as an Agent of Influence. Pejman Yousefzadeh calls him Putin’s “Favorite Puppet.” Allegedly one of Vladimir Vladimirovich’s  predecessors called people like Cohen “Useful Idiots.”

Cohen’s mentor, Robert C. Tucker, was a Stalin-era Agent of Influence, so he comes by his trade honestly (not that he practices it that way).

Again, we don’t care why he does it, but we’d guess #s 1,2, maybe 3, and certainly 4. Cohen’s wife and financier is 1%er Communist Katrina vanden Heuvel, owner of The Nation and perhaps best known in the United States for her loathing for the American flag. (The link to her flag-loathing column inspired by 9/11 appears to have been broomed, but its lede survives here).

Explaining this Graphic: Jackie Speier, D-CA

From the land of fruits and nuts comes this:

lesser prairie chicken

She was trying to make some point about the National Defense Authorization Act. Since we can’t seem to get past “some” point and a poster of a prairie chicken, we just put it down to whatever’s in the smog out there in Californistan.

In Venezuela, Bad Luck Continues

Despite building Socialism tirelessly for 15 years now, Venezuelan maximo líder Nicolas Maduro encounters the surprising (to him) appearance of food shortages. (Gee, has that ever happened before?) His answer, naturally, is moar socializm. The government will now take charge of all food distribution.

Every real (i.e., non-Marxist) economist on the planet is slowly shaking his head. But Maduro is undeterred: he has plenary emergency power and can run the country by dictate, so he just raised government workers’ pay by 30%.

Inflation (by official rates) was 68%. Must be the looters and wreckers.

Lord Love a Duck!

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

In Canuckistan, More Gun Restrictions alarm the CBC, because they’re not restriction-y enough. This bill supposedly guarding shooter’s rights actually bans gun ownership by felons and those accused of domestic violence (in other words, almost anybody who ever got divorced). Yet because it removes some anti-gun authorities from unaccountable bureaucrats at RCMP to cabinet members responsible only to the head of government, and liberalizes gun transportation laws a little. As freedom goes, this is weak tea indeed, and Canada’s gun owners and sportsmen (and -women) deserve better, especially from an allegedly Conservative government (OK, Progressive Conservative, an appelation that probably makes as little sense in French as it does in English, but explains, perhaps, some of the wishy-washiness at the core of Canadian thought).

For Next Mother’s Day…

Sent your Mom flowers for Mother’s Day last week? In the Washington Post, some airheaded bimbo named Jennifer Grayson outs you as an environmental criminal. 

So next year, spare the rosebushes and send Mom the head of Jennifer Grayson.