Monthly Archives: October 2013

In New Jersey No Man is Safe

We’ve been meaning to tell the gun-rights nightmare story of Brian Aitken for some time. Finally, our desire to tell this story has been overcome by events, for Brian has told the story himself.

Three years ago this month, thanks mostly to poorly written laws and a vindictive judge, I turned 27 while incarcerated in Mid-State Correctional Facility in Fort Dix, New Jersey.

I got sentenced to seven years in prison for legally owning guns. I had purchased them in Colorado and brought them with me to New Jersey, home to some of the harshest gun laws in the country, where I moved to be closer to my young son. I complied with all of the regulations, but one day the police searched my car and charged me with unlawful possession of a weapon—even though my handguns were locked, unloaded, and in my trunk. The court said it was on me to prove that I wasn’t breaking any laws, which obviously was very difficult. When Reason magazine covered my case, it wrote, “Even the jurors who convicted him seem to have been looking for a reason to acquit him. But the judge gave them little choice.”

via My Life as a Convicted Gun Offender Who Did Nothing Wrong | VICE United States.

Governor Christie should have pardoned Aitken and worked to overturn the law — instead, in light of his Presidential ambitions, he tried to split the baby and commuted Aitken’s sentence to try to please pro-gun primary voters, while refusing to pardon Aitken and, as Brian recounts, doubling down on the law that criminalizes mere gun possession in the Superfund State.

The problem for Christie is that, while he plans to run as a liberal Republican, on gun rights he’s indistinguishable from President Obama or Senator Schumer, to name two people no gun owner would count as allies. He can’t win the nomination with just the liberal Northeast and the states that allow his fellow liberals to cross over from the Democrats in the primaries. So that’s why you get the baby-split between his own beliefs, which would have left Aitken in crowbar motel, and his ambitions, which makes him utter the telltale rosary of a closet anti: “I support the Second Amendment, but…

Only in New Jersey do the Mafiosi walk free, and violent criminals who use their guns are seldom if ever charged under the Graves Act, while a Brian Aitken gets, not just prison, but the punishments that continue even after Christie’s grudging commutation:

The only real value I can add is to tell them what it feels like to get caught in a patchwork of draconian gun laws. I decide to focus on the consequences I’ve faced as a convicted felon who has broken no laws.

I start with how a family court judge decided I wasn’t a fit parent and couldn’t see my son because of all of the (nonviolent and victimless) charges against me. I go on to explain how my record included so many weapons offenses, all for that one incident, that my fellow inmates thought I must have been a big-time arms trafficker. I can’t tell you how many times I was asked to “hook up” somebody “on the outside.” The Bloods who wanted my business didn’t like it when I told them they could go to my supplier, Bass Pro Shops, and get whatever they wanted so long as they could pass all the FBI and CBI background checks I did.

Did I mention how the judge refused to let the jury to consider the laws in my case? Did I remember to tell them how the jury asked three times what the exemptions to the law were that would have let me walk? Did I mention how I am not allowed to vote, or own firearms, or that my passport was revoked?

I wish I wasn’t able to tell my story; I wish I didn’t have a story to tell. I just want to be in New York with my dogs and my fiancée. I just want to be annoyed that my son is jumping up and down on my bed and keeping me from sleeping in. I just want my life back.

“No life for you,” says Chris Christie and his antigun Greek chorus of bipartisan liberals. As long as there is no reciprocity, as long as anticonstitutional jurisdictions like New Jersey can do what they did to Brian AItken, as long as people take Chris Christie for Presidential material, as long as Brian Aitken’s freedom is not secure, your freedom and mine are not secure.

Reason magazine has written about Brian, not once, but often. Some are blog entries, some are longer-form essays.

  • 15 Nov 10: Brian Aitken’s Mistake: A New Jersey man gets seven years for being a responsible gun owner.
  • 10 Dec 10: PJTV on the Brian Aitken Case. “Aitken began serving a seven year prison sentence … even though he … made a concerted effort to comply…”
  • 20 Dec 10: Chris Christie Commutes Brian Aitken’s Sentence. To time served, but refuses to pardon him.
  • 01 Mar 11: Brian Aitken’s Mistake: An outrageous gun prosecution in New Jersey. Note that despite the similar title (and same writer), this is entirely different from the 15 Nov 10 article. This article has quite a bit more about the judge’s misconduct in this case.

One small thing in Governor Christie favor: the Andrei Vyshinski of New Jersey, Judge James Morley, needed a reappointment to stay on the bench, and Christie withheld it. But before we make with the hosannas, it was over Morley’s misconduct in other cases.

Clausewitz had it wrong. Sometimes it’s politics that’s the continuation of war by other means.

Breaking: Powder Plant Owner Guilty of Manslaughter

BREAKING exclamation point

We have just learned that black powder substitute manufacturer Craig Sanborn was convicted of state manslaughter and negligent homicide charges — two counts of each, relating to two deaths — Wednesday in New Hampshire.

Sanborn was the former owner of defunct Black Mag, which made a blackpowder substitute — at least, until a massive explosion destroyed the plant on May 14, 2010.  When the fires were out, two workers’ bodies remained in the wreckage of the building.

The court case ran with great rapidity, and accelerated as it neared the end (indeed, we expected it to conclude today, hence, we didn’t check on Sanborn’s fate. However, the local paper had correctly called it, and we had noted, it ending on the 24th). The prosecution took over two weeks — 12 working days of evidence — to present dozens of witnesses and exhibits. The defense presented two days of testimony. Sanborn’s wife testified, but he did not. Wednesday morning both side presented closing arguments, and by 1100 the jury was charged. At 1430 they were back with a verdict of guilty on all counts.

It’s self-evident that they found the prosecution case convincing: that Sanborn, who was 1700 miles away at a trade show, had been reckless in his set-up of the plant and his training of the workers. His defense appears to have been (1) that he wasn’t even there at the time of the blast; and (2) he didn’t think the powder was all that dangerous. If he was negligent in his construction and oversight of the plant, it’s hard to see how these arguments could get him off the hook.

Sanborn was remanded on $250k bail. His sentencing hearing remains unscheduled at this time.

Experts were unable to determine the probable cause of the explosion. There were several possibilities, including heaters with open flames, and machinery operated without documentation and possibly outside parameters; but the physical evidence didn’t point to any cause in particular.

The local Colebrook Sentinel has the result on its front page here. It has a detailed report of part of the prosecution case in last week’s paper here. Note that by this Wednesday, these links will be replaced by the next paper and there’s no online archive, so these links will go dead very quickly. The Sentinel’s Jake Mardin, who attended the trial, will have a report on the trial and its conclusion in Wednesday’s paper. By the Wednesday after that, the story will be gone from the net for good.

We think we’ve been unique among the gun press in covering Sanborn’s trial. We are proud to have done so, but admit, we did not cover it as tightly as we probably ought to have done, and we were entirely dependent on local news reporters like Mardin. The national media expressed interest in the start of the trial, but then dropped their coverage. (“Squirrel!”?)

Previous WeaponsMan coverage:

What is it with cats and crossbows?

luckyasscatlgSome people don’t like cats. We get that — they’re not for everybody. And some people like to fool around with primitive weapons, like bows and crossbows. We get that — it’s fun.

What we don’t get is why the intersection of the two sets insists on nailing the furballs that they don’t like, with the arrows or bolts that they do. You may not like cats, but you probably have no problem understanding that not everybody is like you, and some of them may like cats.

As our wise old grandmother used to say, “It takes all kinds to make a world.”

Cat survives cross bow through the headAnd you know that. And therefore, you refrain from using said third parties’ cats as your personal moving target range.

As we’ve recounted before, not everybody has your level of forbearance. Indeed, rather a lot of them (there are about 10 speared cats at that link) seem to think that it’s a highly amusing thing to nail somebody’s pet. Even cops have gotten into it (in that case, we have since learned, that while the DA sided with the officer, the Police Chief didn’t… this turned out to be one of those Leave Your Badge On The Desk™ moments. Oddly enough, for all these attacks, the cats usually survive.

So, now we have some upside-down antipodean reenacting Agincourt with somebody’s moggy in the role of the Chivalry of France. Nice shooting, Elmer Fudd.

A cat in New Zealand is lucky to be alive after being shot in the head with a crossbow.

Owner Donna Ferrari saw her four-year-old cat, Moo Moo, from Wainuiomata, hiding in the bushes with an arrow through his head.
She took Moo Moo to the Wainuiomata Veterinary Clinic.

“They said they’ve never seen anything like it and called (the Massey University Veterinary Teaching Hospital),” Ms Ferrari said.

Moo Moo was operated on late Monday while Ms Ferrari went to look after her three-year-old daughter.

“They rang when we were driving back to say they had removed the bolt,” she said. “I’m sick to my stomach. Hopefully the person responsible is caught or feels so much hatred from the community that they never do anything like it again.”

Vet surgeon Dr Jonathan Bray said Moo Moo is extraordinarily lucky.

“The bolt went in just above the eye but was a glancing blow across the cranium so didn’t actually impact on brain tissue at all,” he said. “It was really just a matter of opening up the track so we could clean up the contamination so it would heal up okay.

“There was a little bit of injury to his nose and eye socket, but he’s an extraordinarily lucky cat. The velocity of the bolt hitting him would have been quite frightening, so he’s very brave,” he said. “He’s very well this morning – bright and happy, the wound is doing fine and he’s got nothing that is going to cause him any long-term harm.”

via 8 lives left! Cat survives arrow through head | New York Post.

UPDATE

Elmer has turned himself in, according to the Australian press, and will be meeting with Moomoo’s owner. One would hope that an apology — and perhaps, some restitution or volunteer service with a veterinarian or animal shelter — ends it. The kid (he’s 18, we can call him that) is a cretin for shooting the cat, but perhaps the road to redemption began with that walk of shame into the police station.

Or maybe the cops will just give Moomoo’s owner a bow and a free shot!

Soviet* SEALs Stay Strapped while Submerged

Underwater AK2If you’ve been used to carrying a gun every day, you hate being without one, but frogmen have long had to either go without, or use special underwater weapons. The reason is the fundamental difference between aero- and hydro-dynamics: weapons efficient in the air are much less so in the denser medium, water. Weapons efficient underwater are hopelessly compromised on the surface. A number of unsatisfactory options for the combat swimmer include: just carrying a knife for undwerwater action; having two separate weapons; doing without armament during the underwater phase; training to bring a handgun into contact with an underwater opponent.

Underwater AKFor quite a few years Russia has been working on a single multipurpose sub- and surface gun, which would allow them to retire their special purpose underwater weapons, like the smoothbore APS (which looks like an AK with a footlong magazine, because it’s basically an AK that fires footlong underwater spears) and a variety of pistols. While specialist publications and blogs have followed the development of the bullpup AK ADS since 2007, it’s making a splash (no pun intended) now because it was the Tula Instrument Design Bureau’s featured display at a Moscow arms trade show. To make sure you got the idea, Tula displayed it in an aquarium.

The gun uses two different kinds of 5.45mm ammo, one for limited-range underwater engagements, and one the conventional, standard Russian infantry round. As the frogman changes mediums, he changes magazines, and he’s good to hook. The rifle appears to be a bullpup AK with a  few modern updates — a Picatinny rail and a 40mm grenade launcher (not the old 30mm one, although this one works on the same principles as the old one). An older Wikipedia entry has the photo of an earlier iteration that you see below (it’s expandable with a click). From this we can learn that the ADS:

  • Uses a standard AK-74 magazine;
  • is available in a suppressed version (using this at the same time as the GL, though, appears to be a Hollywood impossibility; the suppressor casing intrudes into the firing line of the grenades);
  • Has a Glock-style trigger safety that we believe to be a first among Russian weapons;
  • Appears to have rather short-radius iron sights built in;
  • Does have the P-rail on the carrying handle, which is the sincerest form of flattery perhaps, but kind of 1990;
  • Appears to have an adjustable gas system;
  • Appears to have a non-reciprocating, left-hand or possibly selectably-ambidextrous, non-cycling charging handle, and,
  • Appears to have, apart from changes required by the long trigger, classic AK lockwork, judging from the position of the pins in the receiver.  This implies selective fire, with a trigger, dual disconnector, and hammer system on the same general principles used in the M1 Garand and AR-15.

5.45mm_ADS_rifle_-_InnovationDay2013part1-44

There’s been a lot of media coverage of the new gun, which must please the marketing department. To us, the best general-media coverage (because it’s got the most technical information!) is this story and video at Russia Today. (If we haven’t munged the code, the video is embedded below).

Designed by Russia’s Tula Instrument Design Bureau the ‘ADS’ gun can shoot underwater using a special cartridge, which in size is suitable for the standard magazine case Kalashnikov assault rifle.  To fire under water or on land, one only needs to replace the magazine of the 5.45 millimeter automatic rifle.

“Until now underwater fighters were compelled to use two types of weapon – for use under water and the Kalashnikov for overland firing. Now it is only necessary to replace the ammunition magazine,” Nikolay Komarov, head of department of foreign economic relations of the manufacturer in Tula told rostec.ru

The ‘ADS’ is also equipped with a 40 mm grenade launcher. Developers believe that its effectiveness and accuracy are comparable if not greater than the legendary AK-47m.

“The main feature of it is that the fire can be carried out both under water and on land. Currently, no country in the world has been developing such machine guns, they are developing only underwater guns,” a representative of the developer told Ria.

The weight of the machine gun with the grenade launcher is approximately 4.6 kg. The ‘ADS’ uses bullets of 5.45х39 mm at a firing rate of 800 shots/min with the aim range on a land of 500 m.

The rifle’s effective firing range underwater when using a specially designed cartridge is about 25 meters at a depth of 30 meters and 18 m at a depth of 20 m. The new underwater cartridge is externally very similar to standard 5.45×39 ammunition except for a different specially calculated bullet shape. The bullet length is 53.5 mm compared to an overall cartridge length of 57mm.

As compared to the Soviet underwater assault rifle APS that was designed back in 1970s, the new ADS is no less efficient when firing on land than a traditional Kalashnikov. Firing 5.66 mm caliber steel bolts, the APS with its non-rifled barrel is somewhat inaccurate on land. Out of water the APS’s lifetime was only 180 shots with an effective range of around 50 meters.

via Underwater ‘Kalashnikov’: Russia showcases first ever efficient amphibious assault rifle — RT News.

Now that’s really a “sub” gun!

The new gun was displayed at an international arms fair in Moscow, Interpolitex, which has separate expo halls for cop gear, unmanned vehicle technology, physical and border security, and military equipment.

As we mentioned, it’s been around for a while, and The Firearms Blog has covered the gun’s special-purpose ammunition before, and linked to a Russian-language report with further video on the gun. (UPDATE: From the TFB report, the round appears to be a saboted, possibly fin-stabilized, penetrator and the case appears to be rebated rather than rimless. There’s more info on the ammunition at world.guns.ru — linked below). From this we learn that the acronym ADS stands for “Avtomat Dvukhsredny Spetsialny,” which meatball-translates to “dual-medium special assault rifle.” We also learn what the Russian word for “bullpup” is:

(This post has been edited to correct the invisible video. You should now have a working video window above. We regret the error).

It occurs to us that Maxim Popenker has to be all over this development, and sure enough he has been, and his page has excellent detail on the history and development of the ADS, including pictures of an earlier developmental version that shot the APS’s foot-long speargun darts, and a patent-filing image of the normal-length underwater ammo, and an explanation that it’s actually quite different from an AK:

They used the A-91M bullpup assault rifle as a starting point, retaining its bullpup layout, gas operated action with rotary bolt locking and forward ejection through the short tube running above and to the right of the barrel. Some parts of the weapon were necessarily redesigned and materials revised to work reliably when submerged in water, gas system was modified with addition of the environment selector (“air / water”). Integral 40mm grenade launcher (which fires VOG-25 type ‘caseless’ grenades using additional front trigger inside the trigger guard) is fitted with removable barrel which can be removed when it is not needed by the mission profile. Muzzle of the barrel is threaded to accept muzzle brake / compensator, tactical silencer or blank-firing adapter.

That brief snippet does not do Max’s reportage justice; go there and Read The Whole Thing™.  Max’s pages on the A-91/A-91M and its non-bullpup forerunner the 9A-91 may also be of interest. Here is some information on the mechanism of the 9A-91:

The 9A-91 rifle is a gas operated, rotating bolt weapon, which utilizes a long stroke gas piston, located above the barrel, and a rotating bolt with 4 lugs. The receiver is made from steel stampings; the forend and pistol grip are made from polymer. The steel buttstock folds up and above the receiver when not in use. The charging handle is located on the right side of bolt carrier (it was welded solid on early production guns, or can be folded up on current production guns). The safety / fire selector lever was located at the left side of the receiver on early guns, but was since relocated to the right side, to clear space for the sight mounting rail. Safety / fire selector lever has 3 positions and allows for single shots and full automatic fire.

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 12.34.09 PMHere’s a picture of the right side of the ADS, somewhat crudely snipped from the Russian video above, with part of the selector visible at far left. You can see another reason we think the lockwork is AK-derivative. Without an ADS to examine, or maybe a .pdf manual (hook us up, Rosoboronexport, willya?) we can only speculate, of course. It does make us want to get our hands on one.

* Yes, they’re not Soviets any more, but we were going for the alliteration — and Mr Putin does seem to forget that from time to time.

When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have body wastes

jared chase mugshot 1Ah, Chicongo.

The slug of the smug mugshot here, is waiting for trial there, on terrorism charges. He just earned himself another charge:

A New Hampshire man awaiting trial in Illinois on terrorism charges related to the NATO protests last year was reportedly charged with aggravated battery for allegedly squirting a Cook County correctional officer with a shampoo bottle filled with urine and feces.

Prosecutors said Saturday that Jared Chase, 29, of Keene N.H., attacked the officer from his jail cell on Oct. 4, according to a report from the Chicago Sun-Times.

Chase was one of three men known as the “NATO 3,” who were accused during the NATO Summit in Chicago of plotting to firebomb a variety of targets in the city, including police stations, President Barack Obama’s Prudential Building campaign headquarters and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s North Side home.

His attorney says he doesn’t want to see him “rot in jail with a ridiculous bond.” Really. Cause he’s such a stellar fellow, right?

Let the rotting commence.

It’s hard to imagine a more thoroughly-planned Gun Free Zone Victim Disarmament Zone than a prison. But this guy managed to arm himself anyway, even if his choice in arms was literally crappy.

Cartoons of World War I

Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 10.15.44 AMMost everybody knows Bill Mauldin’s excellent cartoons and likes them, apart from George Patton, who was outraged that Mauldin’s Willie and Joe were unkempt while in the line. Patton tried to have Mauldin, who was mercifully not under his chain of command, court-martialed; Mauldin retorted with a cartoon mocking Patton’s habit of imposing fines on soldiers not wearing the more impractical parts of the Army uniform (it was 25¢ for being caught in the 3rd Army area without your tie, a fashion accessory whose relation to combat only Patton could explain).

But men have always gone to war with a sense of humor, and it’s often been expressed by cartoons. In World War I, the now little-remembered 77th Division, AEF, had its own soldier-cartoonist, Captain P.L. Crosby. (Mauldin, also, came from a unit that is undeservedly little-remembered today, the 45th “Thunderbird” Infantry Division, a unit with a lot of real cowboys and Indians in it). Here are a couple of examples of Crosby’s art, most of which address the normal vagaries of Army life — scarcely changed in the nearly 100 years between the AEF and OEF.

Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 10.15.15 AMGI’s of the last century wanted souvenirs, too, but in those days the command let them have them. Of course, the Army’s blood hadn’t been sapped by the bites of a thousand bloodsucking parasites, also known as staff judge advocates.

Crosby’s Everyman is Private Dubb, who isn’t in every cartoon. (At right, he recovers his souvenir G98a from a “buddy”). Unlike the world-weary Willie and Joe, who might well have been a cowboy and an Indian themselves, Dubb is a permanent kid, endearingly naive as he, and his little dog, endure the usual embuggerments of Army life, and the unusual ones, like going to hospital with a wound, or trying to compliment a French girl.

A few of Crosby’s cartoons do cover combat, treating it in a humorous way, and there’s at least one that is heartwrenchingly sentimental — “The Letter that Came too Late” assures a doughboy, “John Smith,” that she hasn’t forgotten him, she’s just busy; and its envelope is stamped, “MISSING,” presumably the fate of Smith, unaware of the letter.

We can be grateful to the library at Brigham Young University for putting Crosby’s book of cartoons online in PDF format.

Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 10.34.10 AMThe British equivalent was Captain Bruce Bairnsfather. (We guess that would translate from the Scots as Baby Daddy). Unlike Crosby’s somewhat limited output, at least as can be seen online, Bairnsfather’s output was prodigious — perhaps because the US stint on the front was short and sharp, but for the Britons, it dragged on for over four bloody (in both the “sanguinary” and “British expletive” senses) years.

It’s interesting to consider that Mauldin was a low-ranking enlisted man and NCO, but the cartoonists we’ve seen from the Great War were both company-grade officers. The reason may be that the sort of literate social class that would find expression in cartoons was, in 1914-18, the same social class that would be commissioned readily. It was not until the years after the war that literary genres we know so well now, the memoir of the combat rifleman, and the novel written by the surviving rifleman, became common. (There are some examples after the Napoleonic wars, and more-egalitarian America always had a tradition of common-man war memoirs as far back as the French and Indian War. But there was nothing like the explosion of trench tales that came about in the 1920s and 30s).

Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 10.36.50 AMThese cartoons are, in our opinion, very close to the spirit of the troops, closer perhaps than less ephemeral and more considered works of literature. Like Mauldin and Crosby, Bairnsfather had distinct characters: mustachioed and dyspeptic Bill, Bert and Alf. After the war, Old Bill is seen (in the second No. 5) with luggage labeled W. Busby, and Dr. Middleton, who apparently donated these to the University of Wisconsin, reported that Old Bill was modeled on “a character in the Warwicks,” and also that “he became so insufferably conceited that [the Tommies] could not live with hims” — although it’s not clear whether “he” is the prototype of Old Bill, or Bairnsfather himself.  Like Crosby, who draws a pretty accurate M1903, Bairnsfather rendered his weapons accurately enough for his subjects to recognize, as in the Maxim cartoon on the right, one of two “Maxim maxims” from his first of at least five volumes of cartoons.

Bairnsfather has been anthologized online by the University of Wisconsin. They did it in a somewhat complicated way, with each of his books, which were published by The Bystander magazine (which ran a cartoon of his in each weekly issue), broken down into sections. It will take a lot of right-clicking and saving (option clicking for you Mac tifosi) to collect the set. As the Maxim cartoon suggests, your efforts will be well rewarded.

  1. The Bystander’s Fragments from France
  2. More Fragments from France (Volume II).
  3. Still More Fragments from France (Volume III).
  4. Fragments from France, Volume IV.
  5. Fragments from France, Volume V.
  6. Fragments from The Bystander, No. 5. (This is just postwar, and contains both cartoons and prose pieces, one of which is on Lenin. The cartoons are end-of-war scenes).

BYU has a list of World War I related documents that has many other interesting items on it, but any other cartoons or caricatures appear to be war propaganda — some of it very well done, some of it cartoonish, but all propaganda.

A good look at a good shoot

We were going to blog this from an engagement dynamics point of view — it was a very near-run thing, that began as a routine traffic stop, and ended, fortunately, with the bad guy dead (although he speeds away at the end of the video, he didn’t get far before succumbing to his wounds). But it turns out Chris Hernandez, who has military experience but also a long career as a street cop in a tough city, has thoroughly and thoughtfully blogged the engagement. We strongly urge you to Read The Whole Thing™ (and the rest of his blog! And his book!) but here’s a taste.

The movement of [bad guy John Van Allen]’s right arm as he reaches under his uniform shirt is obvious from the camera angle, and I’d guess it would be even more obvious to the officer, standing outside the driver’s door. My guess, and it’s just a guess, is that the officer [Trooper Matt Zistel, Oregon State Police] didn’t fire at this point because Allen was wearing a US Army uniform. Most cops consider members of the military to be fellow “men of the cloth”, so to speak. That doesn’t mean we won’t treat them like criminals when they act like criminals, but it does mean cops generally are hesitant to fire on someone wearing an official good guy uniform. My gut feeling is that Trooper Zistel would have opened fire at this point if Allen hadn’t been in uniform.

5) At 1:06, a full two seconds from the time he first started drawing, Allen opens fire.

This was an extremely slow draw, giving Trooper Zistel plenty of advance notice. Most criminals don’t “train”; they might practice pulling their weapon from wherever they hide it, but they don’t train to develop muscle memory. To me, Allen appears to be an amateur with no appreciable pistol training. The majority of criminals are, like Allen, capable of not much more than operating a weapon. And despite comments from those who think anyone in uniform is a highly trained combat vet with PTSD, there is currently no reason to believe Allen ever did anything more than stateside military construction training. He served 3 years as a reserve construction engineer, and was discharged last year. No word yet on why Allen was in uniform.

Once again, we admonish you to Read The Whole Thing™. Chris has a fairly high-rez video and he saw a lot of the goings-on other commentators missed — like the perp inadvertently dropping his mag.

Trooper Zistel did well, even though he got tagged with a non-life-threatening wound. He reacted fast and won the gunfight. It was an ugly win, but a win nonetheless, and it’s very hard to fault anything he did. When you watch the video (and the video Chris has at that link is better than any of the others we’ve seen) the sheer malevolence of John Van Allen’s attach is startling.

The OSP has been providing a video about “common myths about deadly force” in officer-involved shootings to the media. We’ve debunked some of those same myths in these pages, so we’re going to give you the link to the video in a future post. It can stream with Windows Media Player or with VLC. If people have trouble with that, we’ll get the file and put it on here.

Improved Peace Symbol

hippie peace symbolWe all believe in “peace.” Of course, that means different things to different people. Marxists want peace. So do Islamists. Their idea of peace involves you — as a slave. Various hippies, lefties, and academics think the path to peace is to appease. Calmer heads — Teddy Roosevelt swinging his Big Stick of a Navy; Kipling explaining the philosophy of Dane-Geld; Churchill exploding over Chamberlain’s cave at Munich; Reagan turning back his opponents’ unilateral nuclear disarmament and Nuclear Freeze proposals — know that peace is best gained from a negotiating position that can be respected.

Like at your opponent’s throat. Peace, as we say, through superior firepower.

Vocal peaceniks -- sponsored by the NKVD -- predate the Vietnam War

Vocal peaceniks — sponsored by the NKVD — predate the Vietnam War

In the 1960s, the patchouli-and-hemp-scented hippies came out with the peace symbol, which has been the calling card of fuzzy-thinking utopians everywhere. “What if they gave a war and nobody came?” was the glib line of various well-to-do ingrate spratlings. They intended to be the nobodies in question, no matter how many of the less well-off, less self-absorbed, and perhaps more loyal to something greater than self, were going to have to show up in their place. So that was the line of 1968, at least, in those places where the line wasn’t “Gooks in the wire! Ammo up!” It was intoned from behind college lecterns, printed on posters and t-shirts, and, most often, intoned with confused profundity in voices hoarsened by cannabis sativa. 

To give you an idea of just how lame that line was, some LA businessman put it in a song and the song was recorded by a bunch of session men for the fake music group, the Monkees, which were, amusingly enough, fake Yout’ Authenticity produced by a bunch of fiftysomething cigar-chomping corporate middlemen and lawyers in Los Angeles, to answer the question: “if we made a completely phony group, but advertised the hell out of it, could it get really big? Are our customers, the baby boomers, that stupid?” The war protest song was not a Number 1, but several other songs, which were written and recorded by a variety of studio pros and mimed-to by the Monkees, did. Question answered.

It didn’t take long for the symbol to be hijacked from its bong-sucking originators and modified with the legend, Peace Through Superior Firepower.

peace through superior firepower

footprint of the american chickenNot long after that there was a variant describing the original Peace Symbol, cruelly but accurately, as The Footprint of the American Chicken. (Accurately? Yes. The principal driver of the Vietnam War protests of 1966-71 was young men who feared being drafted. As soon as Nixon wound down the draft, the protests evaporated, except for a few diehards who would protest Christmas if it wasn’t cold out that time of year. Once liberal white college students didn’t have to risk going in the Army or Marines with poor people, they lost interest in protesting).

The usual commies, not aging well at all.

The usual commies, not aging well at all.

In fact, you couldn’t throw a rock at a “peace rally” without hearing that the real issue was the fact that people from Scarsdale and Brentwood were subject to having their kids’ pink bodies in the line of fire, and they were most absolutely not down with that. Military service was (and still is) for the other guy. The peaceniks even then had the media, and the universities, but in the part of the country that was neither radical-chic media land nor pointy-headed Tenurestan, their peace symbols continued to draw a public backlash… a backlash of ridicule. Hit “more” to see some of our favorites.

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Book review: Red Army Tank Commander

1942 version T-34/76. Note how small the two-man (commander/gunner and loader) is.

1942 version T-34/76. Note how small the two-man (commander/gunner and loader) turret is. The quality of these tanks, and the courage of their crews, was an unpleasant surprise for the Germans.

What was it like to go to war in a tank on the Eastern Front? How did it feel? This book answers that, and many other things besides. What was it like, to go to war and lose your best friends? Your entire tank crew?

What was it like, to be inside a tank when fire broke out? What was the workload of a tank commander in the T-34/76?

Vasiliy Bryukhov answers these questions, and more, in Red Army Tank Commander: At war in a T-34 on the Eastern Front. Let’s give you an excerpt that answers the last question first:

Nowadays some people are so good at telling stories — I am amazed that they remember the names of the settlements near where they fought. How could I recall the names of all those places? You receive an order: “Move between Landmark X and Landmark Y” – and off you go. You’re on the move, you look for targets, you shoot, you spin around. A T–34–76 commander works like a circus artist — he lays the gun, he shoots, gives orders to his gunloader and driver, he gets in touch with the other tanks of the platoon via radio. This requires his full concentration, otherwise in combat he is done for. Once there’s a target in sight, press your boot against the driver’s head — “A short one!” – then one shot, then another. As your gun is thrown from left to right, you yell: “An armor piercer! A splinter one!” There’s no air to breathe inside the turret as it’s full of gun smoke. The engine roars — you can’t hear shell bursts, and when you begin to fire yourself, you can’t hear anything that’s happening outside. Only when a solid projectile hits your tank or a shell bursts against your armor do you recall that they are shooting at you as well.

Bryukhov_V_PAt the outbreak of the war, Bryukhov called had just graduated from high school. He waited with exasperation for his call-up to come, thinking that the war would would end without him. He didn’t need to be afraid. His call-up came in September, 1941. He would survive the war, and continue as a career officer in the Soviet army, with a number of interesting commands, and an assignment as top Soviet advisor to the then-nonexistent Yemeni army. He finally retired in 1986.

The translation of the book is very good, with the exception of some technical terms like the crew drill terms you can see in the excerpt above, that are a little “off” because of the translator’s lack of tank-specific vocabulary. But this simply makes the translation imperfect, not bad. Bryukhov’s prose really puts you in the seat of the overworked T-34/76 TC, who simply had too much to do and too small a two-man turret to do it in. (The T-34/85 got a new turret and a badly needed fifth crewman, separating the duties of commander and gunner. T-24/76 TCs often got target lock doing gunnery, and lost situational awareness of the other German tanks, who then did them in).

Destroyed T-34 at Stalingrad. One of the crew burned in the driver's hatch.

Destroyed T-34 at Stalingrad. One of the crew burned in the driver’s hatch.

The above-mentioned description of what fire did to a T-34 and its inhabitants was one of the most powerful sections of the book also. Whether you survived depended on many things, including luck and, critically, which seat you were in. Bryukhov:

Once I was almost literally burnt out. Somewhere between Orel and Bryansk my tank was hit and caught fire. I yelled: “Abandon the machine!” and grabbed the edges of the hatch chute to pull myself up and out — but the interphone plug was tightly stuck into the socket, and when I moved upwards, it jerked me back into the seat. My gunloader leapt out of my hatch, then I managed to escape and follow him. The helmet saved me— it didn’t burn well, which is why I got scorches only on my face and hands…. Later on, when new crews arrived, I made everyone adjusting interphone plug so that it could be pulled out with ease.

It is not that easy to leave a burning tank. The most important thing is not to panic. The temperature in the tank rises abruptly, and if you’ve been touched by flame you completely lose self-control. Why is it so hard for the driver to jump out? Because he has to unhook the hatch and open it up — if he is in a panic or on fire, he’ll never escape. Radio operators used to die more often than the rest. They are in the most awkward position: the driver is on the left, and the gun loader is behind, so until one of them clears out of the way, he is unable to get out himself. And the countdown only lasts seconds! So, the tank commander leaps out, then the gun loader — for the others, it’s in God’s hands. Once you are outside you roll down head over heels — I often wondered how you could leap out, tumble down the side of the home and fall to the ground and yet I never saw anyone break an arm or leg or even get any scratches.

Late 1943 T-34/76, artist's rendering (probably model kit box art).

Late 1943 T-34/76, artist’s rendering (probably model kit box art).

(The “chute” he’s referring to only existed in T-34/85 and one variant of T-34/76 turrets. You can see it in this artist’s rendering or the image on the left). Bryukhov began the war with a feeling of heroic immortality, and sustained that even after his unit suffered badly in its first combat. He then volunteered for a suicidal reconnaissance-in-force against a hard German position; he felt the hostility of his crew upon him, and when the attack went wrong, they all perished as they had feared. Bryukhov brought back a crippled tank; he, his friend, and a crewman from another tank who vowed never to trust him again were the only human survivors of the forlorn hope reconnaissance in force, and all the tanks were destroyed or unserviceable.

After that, his warmaking was more judicious. Still, the Germans had a vote, often a 75mm or 88mm one, and you couldn’t argue with the arithmetic of tank fires, as recounted above. He often lost crew members. But there are happy stories too. His friendship with another officer, Kolya Maximov, who leads nearly as charmed a life — nearly. The senior sergeant, Lesha Rybakov, who holds down an officer’s position as Chief of Staff, who impersonated a general to get fleeing units to reverse direction, and who refused all offers of a commission.  The nervous tank officer who stops when he hears, or imagines he hears, bad mechanical sounds. He proceeds to deal off many parts of his tank to other tankers with bad parts — so that, when the deputy for technical affairs shows up, his tank might not have been unserviceable at the start but it sure is now.

There’s a thieving kid whose real ambition is to run away from home — to the front.

The war runs across the geographic sweep of eastern Europe, from Russia through the then-German satellites of Romania and Hungary, into Austria, then a province of the Third German Empire (Reich).

There are relatively few honest Russian memoirs of the Eastern Front. For many years, propaganda dictated the stories. An improbable survivor like Bryukhov  — whose nomination as a Hero of the Soviet Union was so long stalled that he became a Hero of a different country, the Russian Federation, when the paperwork caught up with him in 1995 — is in a position to tell the Russian story, warts and all, from the seat of a tank and the press of a staff conference, as he rose in rank. It is a story of a man who loved his country, hated but respected his enemy, and tried to construct his own moral code in a society that had only a simulacrum of one.

Born in 1924, Bryukhov is still alive. This is his only book; it was originally published in Moscow in 2010. Its title in Russian translates to: Armor-piercing, Fire!: Memoirs of a tank officer. 

Update:

A 1943 vintage T-34/76, with armament still on board, was recovered from a bog in the Uraine in 2008. The airless conditions immersed in the bog preserved the tank well. See photos here. (Note, spammy former Soviet nation site with pop-ups etc).

Another scandal with security information and Lady Gaga

Misiewicz aboard shipYou may remember that Bradley Manning, the swishy, troubled intelligence analyst now doing a long sentence in Leavenworth,  copied classified files for distribution while lip-synching to Lady Gaga. We don’t know what it is with the autotune star and blowing off one’s oath of office, but it looks like fandom is not working out well for another serviceman, this one in the Navy.

A high profile U.S. Navy commander has been charged with accepting paid travel, the services of prostitutes and Lady Gaga concert tickets from a Singapore-based defense contractor in exchange for classified information according to federal prosecutors.

Commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz, who was born in Cambodia during the Vietnam War and gained media attention for his rise to captain of a U.S. Navy destroyer, has been arrested on federal bribery charges – in what some are calling the worst scandal to hit the Navy in decades.

Also taken into custody and charged in criminal complaints unsealed in U.S. district court in San Diego were Leonard Glenn Francis, the CEO of Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd, and John Bertrand Beliveau II, a special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

via Navy hit with bribery scandal as high profile commander charged with accepting Lady Gaga tickets and prostitutes in exchange for classified information | Mail Online.

Whatever happens to Misiewicz, he’s unlikely to end up like Manning, who is now acting out his Lady Gaga fantasies underneath some axe murderer in Leavenworth. BEcause if there’s one principle that’s the foundation of military justice system, it’s “different spanks for different ranks.” But Misiewicz’s career is over. Even if it’s all some collossal mistake, he has Brought Bad Publicity, which is the nearest thing to an unforgivable sin the Naval Service offers.

The investigation could be much larger. Glenn Defense Marine Asia is the company accused of bribing Misiewicz; its CEO Francis, and manager for government contracts Alex Wisidigama, are in custody after being lured to a bogus San Diego meeting that turned out to be a pretext for their arrest. Glenn Defense seems to have charged much higher than market rates for its services to the US Navy for 25 years, suggesting that other officers — perhaps including Misiewicz’s predecessors as deputy ops officer of the Pacific-spanning 7th Fleet — have also been doing the “pro quo,” which has to have NCIS looking for the “quid.”

Speaking of NCIS, despite the incredibly phony TV show, it doesn’t exactly have a reputation for investigative excellence, a situation that will not be helped by the presence of one of its own in the dock.

The Washington Post explained how that came to happen:

Court documents allege that Francis was receiving regular tip-offs from inside the agency about the state of investigations. The information, prosecutors say, was being supplied by John B. Beliveau II, a onetime NCIS agent of the year, who was arrested at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Southeast Washington on the same day that Misiewicz was taken into custody.

[H]e fed Francis confidential information about pending criminal investigations into Glenn Defense Marine….

In return… Francis supplied Beliveau with prostitutes and free travel, including a three-week trip to five Asian countries.

The Post also identified at least one other officer who may be involved in the long-running scheme:

Court papers make references to other, unnamed Navy officers who accepted favors from Francis, an indication that the investigation remains in its early stages.

Navy officials have identified Capt. Daniel Dusek, former commander of the USS Bonhomme Richard, as another target of the investigation. He has not been charged, but the Navy relieved him of command Oct. 2, citing the investigation.

Dusek, who remains under suspension, declined to comment through a Navy spokesman.

No word on what Dusek’s connexion to Lady Gaga is. If there isn’t one, he’s probably not guilty.

FMI: Daily Mail story.