Monthly Archives: December 2014

Pakistan’s Two Directions on Terror

Flag_of_Tehrik-i-TalibanPakistani forces, driven by an angry PM Nawaz Sharaf, say they have succeeded in whacking one of the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan ringleaders of the massacre in Peshawar.

The slaying of the Taliban commander, known as Saddam, comes as Pakistani leaders are vowing to forcefully respond to the attack on the school. With the country still mourning the deaths of 149 students and staff members, security forces­ are taking their battle deep into Pakistani cities while the country’s air force pounds militants’ havens along the border with Afghanistan.

Saying he plans “to wipe terror out of Pakistan,” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif huddled with his cabinet much of Friday to oversee the implementation of a newly announced anti-terrorism policy. While Pakistan’s battle against Islamist militants has appeared to sputter during much of the past decade, Sharif has stressed in recent days that the current operations will define his term as prime minister.

“To me, zero tolerance is zero tolerance, and violence in any form against my people equals terror,” Sharif said. He vowed that Pakistan “shall come down heavy on it.”

via Pakistani forces kill alleged organizer of school massacre – The Washington Post.

However, the further description of the guy makes him seem more like an auxiliary member, providing support, than a ringleader:

Saddam was killed in a firefight with security forces­ in Khyber Agency, in the country’s unruly tribal belt near the Afghan border. The 25-year-old is believed to have provided lodging for the seven Taliban fighters who stormed the army-run school in Peshawar on Dec. 16, according to local officials. He helped guide the fighters, all of whom were killed in the attack, to the school, officials said.

Pakistani manned and US unmanned aircraft have been pounding suspected Taliban and Haqqani forces in North Waziristan, also. But the problem Pakistan has can’t be overestimated:

A senior Interior Ministry official said 6,777 Pakistani residents are being monitored around-the-clock for suspected ties to militant groups. Mass arrests are likely in the coming days, the official added. On Friday, 83 suspects were picked up in the capital, Islamabad, according to Pakistan’s the Nation newspaper.

The problem is that sympathy for extremism runs deep in the land of the pure, as Pakistan styles itself. The nation was founded by Jinnah’s rejection of a secular society, and on one level, a rejection of the very humanity of non-Moslems. This was exacerbated during the long rule of , who encouraged Islamist elements and stirred up loathing of foreigners and infidels to distract the public from his own failings.

As a result, the real power centers of Pakistan, the Army and Inter-Services Intelligence, are as likely to make common cause with Islamist terrorists as to oppose them. In 2002-03 the SF site at Lwara was abandoned because it was regularly shelled by the Pakistan Army. This enabled ISI to move terrorists across the border in that area.

More recently, the surviving ringleader of the Lashkar-e Taiba attack on Bombay, India, , was up for parole in Pakistan, where the authorities have evinced little interest in keeping him under lock and key.

And senior cleric of the Red Mosque in Islamabad, Abdul Aziz, initially refused to criticize the Taliban child-murderers, calling their actions justifiable under Islam. A Pakistani court issued an arrest warrant for Aziz, but there has been no attempt to arrest him.

Pakistan ISIAnd meanwhile, another Pakistani court has released Bombay small-arms attack planner and leader Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi on token bail. Lakhvi was a Pakistan-based controller for the attackers, who killed over 160 people. This is characteristic of the sort of blind-man’s investigation Pakistan has done, making every attempt to avoid any trails that lead to the actual doers (which trails would probably lead directly to ISI HQ in Islamabad, so that’s Pakistan isn’t serious about investigating).

The Indian Express reports Indian outrage over Lakhvi’s impunity in Pakistan.

Outraged over the grant of bail by a Pakistani court to 26/11 accused Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the [parliament] spoke in one voice Friday and adopted a resolution asking the government to “take every step in its power, including through its relations with other countries, to put pressure on Pakistan to bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion”.

The government said it had asked the Pakistan government to ensure that the grant of bail to Lakhvi is reversed.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the House that this “attitude” of Pakistan, especially after the outpouring of grief and sorrow across India over the massacre of children in Peshawar, had come as a “great shock” and had been conveyed in the “strongest words” to Islamabad.
Referring to the Peshawar massacre, Modi said: “The pain felt in India was no less than that in Pakistan. Every Indian was in tears. And this kind of an attitude immediately after that has come as a great shock to all those who believe in humanity.”

Speaking shortly after the Prime Minister, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said India rejected the claim of insufficient evidence as ground for bail to Lakhvi. “We demand that the Pakistan government get this decision overturned immediately. We are keeping a watch on its response.”

“By releasing Lakhvi on bail, the Pakistan government has made a mockery of its pledge to fight terror groups without condition or discrimination. It only emboldens the terrorists responsible for the heinous crime in Peshawar.”

She said there was no doubt that 26/11 plot was hatched in Pakistan. “99 per cent evidence is available in Pakistan and Pakistani investigators had six years to collect the evidence. It is their responsibility to collect evidence and ensure that the accused are punished.”

The problem for Pakistan is that they can’t investigate anyone responsible for the Bombay massacre, unless they want to start with then-ISI head Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha.

And now the terror they sponsored has flashed back on the children of Pakistan’s military elite. But they can’t stop riding the tiger. The Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, the Pakistani terror group, recently released a tape in which a TTP leader accuses the Pakistani government of withdrawing the support for terrorism the ISI once freely provided.

Gun-Builders’ Info Deal! From Home Gunsmithing.

There are several good gun-building forums out there. One of them is Home Gunsmithing, sponsored by Roderus Custom Gunworks, which offers some interesting gunsmithing and gun-building plans and threads.

Each forum has its own strengths and weaknesses. This one is strong on hardcore machining and machine building. Some of you guys like that, yes?

One of the cool things they do is offer to sell you their archive, complete, every year.

Home Gunsmith Forum Archive (NEW)

This archive is our largest ever – 2 DVD-ROMs, packed with gigabytes of great information, CAD files, PIctures and blueprints. MANY new prints and diagrams have been added. A must-have item for home gunsmithing. Think of it like the encyclopedia of Home Gunsmithing knowledge. 2 DVD set….it’s BIG. Covers everything from the very first post up to and including December 31, 2014.

You get it all for only $54.95.

If you ever wanted to have the whole forum, offline, including all the resources that forum members have posted, here it is.

So you’re ready for a WROL situation where you can’t get this info off the internet, or the day a numbnuts Nork hacker transposes two octets in an IP address and accidentally nukes the router serving your town.

Order here. Tell ’em Hognose sent you.

Sunday Ave atque Vale for the Year 2014

On a blog we read from time to time, one of the team posted this remarkable sentiment: “Good Riddance, 2014.” This is the last Sunday we’ll have in 2014, and as usual at year’s end, we’re taking that arbitrary1 point in time to look back. And we cannot have such a bleak view of the year that has passed.

Gun Technology in 2014

On gun technology, we’ve seen the proving-out of customer Tracking Point systems, something we find very interesting. Meanwhile, historic firearms continue to be resuscitated, with GunLab’s VG 1-5 at the ATF’s Firearms Technology Branch for approval even as we write these words. Sure, it’s a limited production thing, but a gun that only a few museums have ever held is going to be in private collections in a working, and little changed except for legally-required modifications, replica. We’ve seen the continued explosion of manufacturing technology for the little guy: industrial processes like injection molding are now in reach for the small or home shop, while advanced prototyping and additive manufacturing tools are taking off like computers in the 1980s.

Meanwhile, hobbyists pursuing firearms design, engineering, and manufacturing have never had more information, more tools, and more options than now.

The Gun Market in 2014

Ammunition returned to stores and internet sellers, with the notable exception of rimfire, which remains scarce and high-priced; and while prices are higher than before the 2012 political and media gun-ban push began, they’re at a stable equilibrium, and you can find everything.

Some manufacturers and dealers who overextended themselves in the post-2012 boom have had to retrench, but sales remain at very high levels. Some of the new entrant and non-traditional customers behave differently from our historic customers, but many of them don’t; a significant percentage of them become gun-of-the-month club, avid shooters.

The pace of innovation in gun developments slowed even as it accelerated on the manufacturing side. Your gun buyer tends to be small-c conservative, that is to say, old-fashioned, and new ideas take time to catch on. (It has taken a generation for polymer-framed pistols to go from curiosity to mainstream).

Politics and the Gun Culture

On the legal and political front, 2014 had some wins, as some of the predictions in law professor Glenn Reynolds’s “Second Amendment Penumbras” article have come to pass exactly has he has foreseen, and the vast majority of high-profile anti-gun candidates in competitive districts went down in flames. The one big victory for the zillionaires who would disarm all but their own Praetorians was in the Washington initiative petition, where they managed to win on the strength of a politically favorable jurisdiction, deceptive advertising, and — to be brutally frank — ineffective opposition.

They are nowhere near giving up: the human impetus to enslave your fellow man is a strong one, and it drives people like Mike Bloomberg, Ladd Everitt, Josh Sugarmann, and Shannon What’s-her-face. They believe, based on the legislative history of things like the Hughes Amendment and the Nazi-derived Sporting-Purposes Test, that they only have to win once, while we have to win every time. That’s the challenge, and we have to face it, because they’re not going to give up their dream of absolute power over you, not while they’re on this side of the Judgment Day they consider a quaint superstition. The same urge drove our enemies past, and most of them are unknown today. Unless you have been defending gun rights for decades, names like WWII draft dodger Howard Metzenbaum, crooked senator Thomas Dodd (the who copied Nazi laws), trust-fund columnist Cleveland Amory, shifty William Hughes and more mean nothing to you. But these evil men once drove gun policy in the United States.

Yet — the gun-ban regime that the Hugheses and Metzenbaums worked for has never been more in retreat, nor has the gun culture ever been more ascendant. More Americans (and more citizens of other nations, too) have more access to their rights to own arms and defend themselves than at any time since Jim Crow ushered in gun laws in the late 1860s. A number of those victories took place, under the media radar, in 2014, in municipalities and state houses, but also outside the political sphere, where someone took a nervous housewife, or musician, or white-collar worker to a range for the first time, and empowered him or her quite literally. Just incidentally demystifying firearms and teaching that their owners are not necessarily some 300-lb neckbeard brandishing a tapco’d-out piece of stamped crap in Starbucks, but normal and healthy neighbors and friends, engaging in a variety of enjoyable activities. That is why we have won so much, that is why we are still winning, and that is why we will win further in 2015.

UW in 2014

We’ve seen a continued retreat from US responsibilities worldwide, and an abandonment of the troops in the field by their soi-disant betters, the Acela Corridor crowd. These things are without much in the way of counterweight, but note that in Iraq, Kurds, Shias and downtrodden Sunnis have nervously banded together and held a line everyone expected to see fray. In Libya, Syria and Egypt, misguided US support for Islamists has failed utterly, leaving the nation in better hands (Egypt) or has failed partially (Libya and Syria), leaving the nation in chaos, which still beats Islamist slavery.

Most of the militant dystopias of the world share a single vulnerability: they depend for their power on oil revenue. US oil production, despite attempts by NIMBYs2 and BANANAs3 to curtail it, has grown, and the Saudis have put downward pressure on oil prices for their own reasons.

Of course, when one applies pressure to a system with weaknesses, what happens is more amenable to analysis after the fact, than prediction before. But anything that works to disarm the destabilizing leaders of the world is, on balance, a good thing.

We can predict this: it’s going to be an interesting year ahead.


  1. Arbitrary? Well, yeah. The merciless savages who celebrated the solstice, and phases of the moon, had more connection to rational, physical processes, than we do when we make a big deal about January 1, a date that owes its name to one of the least of the forgotten pagan gods of a fallen empire. Then again, maybe that is our connection, not to the physical world but to our own ancestors as civilized humans. For we’re all the inheritors of the Romans and Greeks even if our personal bloodlines are African, Australian-aboriginal, or Inuit.
  2. A moderate “environmentalist,” the most usual kind; driven by selfishness to pull the boarding-ladder up: Not In My Back Yard.
  3. An extreme “environmentalist,” typically leaders of the movement; Luddites whose war cry is: Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything.

Saturday Matinee 2014 052: The Interview

If you haven’t taken up life underneath a geological feature, you must be aware of the James Franco/Seth Rogen comedy The Interview. Kid dropped the $15 on Google Play to own it, and then he came downstairs, laughing himself silly, and insisting we needed to see it. Like any 15-year-old these days, his sense of humor is attuned to the coarse, even crude comedies being made now, and this one was right up that alley.



Except for one thing: it was funny.

The laughs begin with the opening, as a cute Korean girl sings a beautiful song, with lyrics (rendered in English subtitles) that start off as typical our-lovely-country anodyne patriotism but soon take a new direction that’s completely at odds with the adorable kid and the pretty melody.

The plot has been telegraphed in many a news story, as well as the trailer: a vain and shallow late-night-show host, Dave Skylark (Franco), and his equally juvenile producer Aaron Rappaport (Rogen), win a chance to interview Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un — which becomes a chance to assassinate him, because while nobody in Hollywood has the least awareness of anything the CIA actually does, everyone on the better side of Pasadena knows it’s an assassination shop, right?

Look, roll with it. The story is less plausible than a Disney cartoon, and those are based on fairy tales, for crying out loud. Nobody watches this for the plot. You watch to see a Franco/Rogen buddy film, and to laugh that part of your anatomy that too many of the jokes will be about clean off.

Acting and Production

James Franco is a remarkably flexible actor, who loses himself in his parts, in this case Dave Skylark, a shallow simpleton of a TV personality who has a shallow, simple show. TV viewers being who they are, it’s a huge hit. In the opening scenes, he helps a very unlikely celebrity break the news that he’s gay (we won’t spoil it), and then we learn that it’s his and Aaron’s 1,000th show together — 10 years on the air. Dave is shallow all the way down, but Aaron is troubled by doubts about the seriousness of what he’s doing — even as he revels in it. Numerous small details from the first act go dormant in your mind, but they’ll be fulfilled in the third.


If you’ve seen Pineapple Express you’ve seen similar performances from Rogen and Franco, with Rogen’s character the one struggling to occasionally act like an adult (and often falling short), and Franco’s not even trying. They’re great as a buddy pair, and better in this dopey comedy than in Pineapple’s doper comedy, which could have been done by Cheech and Chong. (The problem with Cheech and Chong is that, unlike Rogen and Franco, doper comedy is all they could do).

There are several breakout performances by minor actors. The one everyone’s talking about is Randall Park, who’s killer as Kim Jong-Un, a complex part with layers of layers.

Kim Jong Un (Randall Park, center) in Columbia Pictures' THE INTERVIEW.

Accuracy and Weapons

This is probably not the right movie to pick if we’re going to key on accuracy, and there’s a rather minimal attempt to make things accurate. Yes, the Norks do have Soviet-style weapons, including a T-55 tank (complete with Cyrillic stencilling), but there is more of an attempt to get the Gestalt of North Korea and its armed forces than to nail any particular details.


There are a few pieces of Western equipment imitating Nork gear, including a Sikorsky S-61 helicopter and VW Type 183 Iltis jeeps, some of which go head to head with the T-55. Would it be a spoiler to tell you who wins?

Wrong helicopter, sure, but this is not the sort of movie that needs the right one.

Wrong helicopter, sure, but this is not the sort of movie that needs the right one.

American weapons include a bizarre assassination poison, that is basically a plot device, and a drone armed with a gadget whose basic raison d’être is another plot point.


Indeed, all the weapons used in the film are there to serve certain plot points.

The bottom line

We’d have urged you to see the movie anyway, on defense-of-free-speech principles. But the fact is that we went from laughing, to chuckling and chortling, back to laughing, to roaring with laughter. It is a modern comedy, meaning there’s a lot of unnecessary foul language and a lot of superfluous sex and gross-out content. But it’s a funny comedy.

At the movie’s end, we felt well entertained and didn’t grudge Franco and Rogen (and Evan Goldberg, who shared directorial duties with Rogen) the time. It was an extra sweetener that Kid bought us the movie with money he made at his own job.

Some people find North Korea to be not especially funny. The comical Kims have had a lot of real human victims, and it’s hard to see the laughter in that. Well, we don’t think Charlie Chaplin thought Hitler was really a barrel of laughs when he made The Great Dictator, either. But we think he was on to something. The Norks’ thin-skinned reaction to the film shows that it was right on target. (As do Sony’s and the exhibitors’ craven capitulation). If you want serious news about North Korea, the Volokh Conspiracy has a story about a lawsuit that shows just what sort of man Korean princeling Kim Jong-Un is, and just what sort of principality he rules. The Conspiracy’s Jonathan Adler quotes from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals’s judgment:

Admissible record evidence demonstrates that North Korea abducted Reverend Kim [no relation to the royal family -Ed.], that it invariably tortures and kills political prisoners, and that through terror and intimidation it prevents any information about those crimes from escaping to the outside world. Requiring a plaintiff to produce direct, firsthand evidence of the victim’s torture and murder would thus thwart the purpose of the terrorism exception: holding state sponsors of terrorism accountable for torture and extrajudicial killing.

Yes, dictatorships are serious business indeed. That’s why our best comedians need to be lampooning them. Please reward Seth Rogen and James Franco (and their whole cast & crew) for making The Interview. See their movie.

But if a scheduler for Dave Skylark calls you, you’re not in, m’kay?   

For more information

These sites relate to this particular film.

  • DVD page :

Not available yet. Try on Google Play:

  • IMDB page:

  • IMFDB page:

  • Rotten Tomatoes review page: it has a 49%, “rotten,” rating, driven down by pro critics like Evan Burr at The Boston Globe who are trying to curry favor with the Norks or something.

  • Wikipedia  page:


Listen up, SEIU: This is a Peaceful Protest

New York Mayor Bill De Blasio (née Warren Wilhelm) insisted on making a campaign stump speech at a funeral attended by thousands of cops from the NYPD and elsewhere. NYPD officers were threatened by their superiors not to answer DeBlasio’s disrespect with their own, but when the politician began to speak, the police turned as one, offering their backs to the cop-hating mayor in the latest showing of raw disrespect. The only NYPD officers who didn’t turn their backs were the most politically-oriented white shirts. Most of the visiting officers from elsewhere joined in. Here’s how it looked from the photographer’s gallery under the dais, and therefore pretty close to what it must have looked like to De Blasio.

cops turn backs 3


When De Blasio was done campaigning, they turned back.

Lesson: when you hate people, they hate you back.

Friday, a coalition of serving and retired police celebrated the good weather by hiring Jersey Shore Aerial Advertising for a banner flight. Warned by the NYPD Aviation Unit that De Blasio would have them intercept and divert the flight if he knew, the banner was prepared in secrecy and had completed its five circuits of the Hudson and East Rivers before De Blasio’s flacks could attempt to suppress its message:

de blasio protest banner

We hear he still hasn’t got his must-be-black head of his PSD, either.

For those of you who may be members of the SEIU and unfamiliar with the concept, this is what an effective and truly peaceful protest looks like.


While De Blasio attended the Ramos funeral, 1,000 of his core supporters, led by organizers from the SEIU and International ANSWER, rallied to — we are not making this up — celebrate the deaths of the two “pigs.”

They weren’t the only ones trying to make hay off the incident. Shannon what’s-her-face, the Democrat Party anti-gun PR dolly whose kids call their nanny “Mom,” said Ismail Brinsley’s cop murder really was caused by his gun leading him astray. Suuuure.

Meanwhile, other people, especially New Yorkers, reacted… differently. The 9/11 Tunnel to Towers Foundation, one of the rare charities that actually does charitable stuff with its funds instead of spending it all raising more money, has pledged to pay off the home mortgages of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. The Foundation can’t lift the yoke of tragedy off those families, but they can ease their financial worries. Well done.

A Note to Hollywood

There's nothing in the scope for today, dammit.

There’s nothing in the scope for today, dammit.

Dear Hollywood Producer and Money Power Types:

Shalom! (Mel says you’re all Jewish, so we want to start off on the right foot and all that).

Please, if you’re going to run mountains of advertisements for a movie (like, say, American Sniper, just for an example), don’t lie to your would-be customers (like, say, Kid) but putting a release date (25 December) that’s only the release date for two theaters in Turkmenistan or someplace as a way to manipulate the Oscar voters. The real release date is 16 January, and we are stuck having to replan a day around a disappointed Kid (who can’t get onto the PlayStation Network, either).

Speaking of which, New Zealand entrepreneur Kim Dotcom (née Schmitz, IIRC), reportedly paid a ransom to the lizard-boy hackers, but either they didn’t stop attacking, or they just ripped Dotcom off. (Usually, it’s the FBI doing that). But we digress.

We realize that we out here east of the East Coast and therefore not even in Flyover Country (unless you’re on a Great Circle route, say, from New York to Cannes) don’t come up much in the calculations of Hollywood potentates, but you are expecting us to give you money.

Would it kill you to say: “Release date 25 Dec 14, but that’s a fiction to bamboozle the Oscar voters, so chill out ’til 16 Jan 15?” Would it?

And, to digress again, how in the name of Niffelheim do you trust those folks to vote for the Oscar winners? We’ve seen who they vote for in House and Senate races; they’re not exactly illustrating good judgment, unless they’re in the early stages in which it’s won from bad experience consequent to bad judgment.

Ah well, no American Sniper around here. We guess we’ll watch The Interview instead on the tube. Gotta love a bunch of people who take a break from “speaking Truth to Power” to grovel to North Korea, whose GDP is some small fraction of what Sony has lost on the PlayStation outage. You’ll never see them bash anyplace they actually want to sell their stuff… except America.

Kol tuv, for now, Hollywood.

Rob Marsh, top Country Doctor: ex-SF Medic and Delta Doc

Rob Marsh’s father was Secretary of the Army John O. “Jack” Marsh. Most of Rob’s colleagues, when he was an enlisted SF medic or when, after he followed the path of many SF medics to medical school and wound up as the special operations unit called Delta’s command surgeon, didn’t know that detail about him.

They just knew he was a good mofo. Like a lot of folks, he got wounded in October, 1993, and like a lot of them, it was the end of a military career — but not of a career of service. Marsh was recently named Country Doctor of the Year, due to his practice which combines the best of modern medicine with the values of a Norman Rockwell family doctor. Here’s a small excerpt from a profile at Western Shooting Journal:

The following day, what Marsh says was simply a lucky shot for some unskilled Somali mortar crew landed in the midst of a group of soldiers with whom he’d been standing, killing one elite U.S. fighter and inflicting devastating wounds on Marsh’s lower body and legs.

Quick thinking by his comrades in arms prevented him from bleeding out on the spot, he says, but Marsh would never again deploy with Delta and retired in 1996 as a lieutenant colonel.

“I never regained the physical skills I needed to stay on jump status,” he says. “I probably could have stayed in Army medicine, but I just didn’t feel that calling, I felt another calling, that I wanted to come do family medicine practice back in Virginia, where I grew up.”

Home in the valley

Marsh, a devout Christian, said he felt he was following God’s direction for his life when he returned to Virginia for good in 1996, but he still had some doubts. He opened a clinic in remote Middlebrook — near his newly purchased farm and just five miles from the place his grandmother was born — and began taking patients.

“I was a little worried how that transition was going to be,” he said. “You know — doctor of the high speed army unit coming back here.”

But the transition felt natural, he said, because once he settled in, the amount of responsibility that immediately fell on his shoulders was huge. Today he has 3,500 active patients. Not only is the number far higher than the typical primary care doctor’s 2,300 patients, his range of services for his patients is wider than normal.

“I think being in a rural area, one, your patients want you to do as much for them as you can,” he said. “By that I mean, they don’t like to be referred” to other, distant doctors.

As a result, Marsh was handling more complex cases than do most primary care physicians in an age of hyperspecialization. And it felt kind of like the Army.

“Instead of gunshot wounds,” he said with a chuckle, “chainsaw injuries.”

One of the advantages of civilian life back in 1996 was going to be more time with his wife and four children, now high-school and college age, he says. But his practice in Middlebrook—which grew enough that he in recent years opened a new office next to a giant truck stop on the interstate in Raphine—has become as absorbing as his Army work ever was.

His wife, Barbara, a registered nurse who works in the Middlebrook office, grew up in the suburbs of Newport News, Virginia, and said the practices of country medicine took came as a surprise.

via Former Delta Force Doctor is Top Rural Physician in America.

Rob Marsh is a good guy, and he’ll be slightly embarrassed by this honor, and otherwise, completely unchanged. We’re a little biased because he did some repair work on a friend in the interstitial period between the big fight and his own near-death experience, and we never would have gotten to meet the guy without Rob and the unit medics.

VA Leaders Knew of Death Lists, Did Nothing, Lied to Congress

VA-veterans-affairsSo, what’s the latest in the VA scandal? According to Richard Oppel at the New York Times, it’s the fact that all of the scandals that were suddenly revealed this spring, and that were received by senior leaders in the department and beyond as “new revelations” and “surprises,” were actually known to them months, even years ago.

Failed and fired VA Secretary Rick Shinseki, who claimed ignorance when the scandal broke this year, knew the details as far back as 2009, but personally stalled any remedial action.

Long before revelations in the spring that the Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix had manipulated waiting lists to hide that veterans were facing long delays to see doctors, senior department officials in Washington had been made aware of serious problems at the hospital, according to filings before a federal administrative board.

The documents in the case of the Phoenix hospital director Sharon Helman, who had been contesting her Nov. 24 firing, provided new details of how much officials knew about the medical center, including patient backlogs, shortages of medical personnel and clinic space, and long waiting lists.

The filings included the sworn statement of Susan Bowers, the executive in charge of dozens of hospitals and clinics from West Texas to Arizona, that she had warned her superiors in Washington that if any V.A. medical center was going to “implode,” it would be Phoenix.

Ms. Bowers, who retired one month ahead of schedule in May as the scandal emerged, said that before Ms. Helman became the head of the Phoenix facility in 2012, an audit showed the hospital was out of compliance with a directive requiring patients to be placed on an official electronic waiting list. There was, in fact, no such active list for primary-care patients in Phoenix, even though a previous hospital director had certified compliance, she said.

Ms. Bowers said that when she submitted a report stating that the Phoenix hospital was out of compliance, she was pressured by other officials to say that it was compliant.

She also said that beginning in 2009, she briefed Eric K. Shinseki, then the Department of Veterans Affairs secretary, and other top officials several times a year about the patient backlog and other problems in Phoenix. She said that projects she pushed — like improving the scheduling system or adding clinic space in Phoenix so more patients could be seen — were defunded or delayed because, she was told, there was no money, or no legal mechanism to lease space.

via Some Top Officials Knew of V.A. Woes, Before the Scandal –

In the irony of ironies, the new revelations come from a lawsuit that may force the VA to un-fire the one person besides Shinseki fired for wrongdoing in the case that saw thousands of veterans neglected with somewhere between 40 and a couple hundred dying. Sharon Helman’s suit has pried loose documents that establish beyond doubt that not only Helman, but former Undersecretary for Health Robert Petzel, and other officials, “including a deputy under secretary for health and the associate director for scheduling and access,” perjured themselves to Congress and/or lied to investigators. Shinseki, lawyered-up and sensitive to a perjury trap, claimed he could not remember any of his briefings, or any allegations, or much of anything. A Profile in Courage, not.

This week, a federal administrative judge, Stephen C. Mish, found that it was “more likely than not that at least some senior agency leaders were aware, or should have been, of nationwide problems getting veterans scheduled for timely appointments” and that the Phoenix hospital, “as a part of the nationwide system also had those problems.”

One crucial question remains: Why did senior officials not do more to fix the underlying problem, which was a shortage of doctors and other clinicians while demand for care was soaring? After the appointment of a new secretary this summer, the department abruptly disclosed that it was short 28,000 doctors, nurses and other staff and that some places, including Phoenix, acutely lacked clinic space. It has not been said whether these shortfalls were previously discussed at high levels inside the department or the Obama administration.

Judge Mish’s ruling suggests Ms. Helman was scapegoated, her lawyers say.

Sure. They’re all just picking on the poor multi-millionaire bureaucrat. You see, while there’s a mountain of evidence that she was corrupt, taking gifts from contractors, and that she was indifferent to the point of depravity towards the veterans in the system, even while feathering her own nest, the fact that everyone upstream from her was just as bad means that she should be un-fired and set back on her gravy train, along with her fellow corrupt payroll patriots.

Basically, it’s the tu quoque logical fallacy, just as false in a legal brief as when your kid tells you his brother did it too.

Her lawyers say they believe the department moved to fire her only after federal criminal investigators discovered emails between Ms. Helman and the consultant and turned them over to the V.A.

Because it’s not fair for criminal investigators to find criminal activity. Why, it’s a Beltway standard to ignore that stuff.

The documents are not the first indication that senior officials knew of the Phoenix problems. In 2008, the inspector general found that it was “an accepted past practice” there to alter appointments to avoid waits over 30 days.

Two years later, a deputy under secretary warned regional directors in a memo to eliminate improper practices being used to “improve scores on assorted access measures.” In a telephone interview after the judge’s ruling in the case, Ms. Bowers said that 2010 memo was written after she told the official of scheduling problems in Phoenix.

Hey, who are you going to believe, somebody’s hired-gun no-soul Beltway lawyer, or his or her lying memo from the files?

And what about Shinseki, who now “don’t ‘member nothin’, nohow”?

When she briefed Mr. Shinseki about problems, she added, he would say, “There’s a process, and we need to follow through on the process.”

It would have been easy to say, “These are our veterans suffering, including ones that were under my command, and we need to do the right thing.” But he didn’t say anything like that — not that time, or any time.

For some general officers, loyalty is the obedience and obeisance owed up the chain by those below, and to ask for reciprocation is to flout their expectation of your obedience. Was Rick Shinseki one of those general officers?

We leave that as an exercise for the reader.

The Cuban Winchester

These days, with Cuba in the news and our President bowing and scraping to los hermanos pollos Castros, is a good time to reflect on the arms of the Cuban Revolution. A recent biography of one of the many tragic figures of the war, Comandante Americano William Morgan, contained a few brief paragraphs about a homemade gun, the “Cuban Winchester.”

One night, [former Second Front training officer Regino] Camacho came over to Morgan, and the two began talking. The other rebels watched as the two huddled over an old Winchester, piecing together the parts to put it back together. They had patched up their differences.

By the morning, the two had devised a homemade assault rifle. Using the frame of a 1907 Winchester and combining it with other parts, they created a base so the gun could fire with interchangeable barrels, depending on what ammo was available. They called it the Cuban Winchester.

This book (The Yankee Comandante by Michael Sallah and Mitch Weiss) does have different details from other sources, but the authors have made scant attempt to document their sourcing, and no source at all is given for this. On top of that, Sallah and Weiss clearly have no interest in or understanding of firearms; a picture showing Comandante Morgan posing with his rebel girlfriend describes their arms, an M1 Thompson and an M1 Carbine, as “assault rifles.” But it interested us enough to track down other references to the Cuban Winchester, such as they are, and to tentatively conclude that the gun was a one-off for propaganda purposes.

We were able to find a video online from which we’ve taken some stills of the actual weapon. The actual video is embedded near the end of this post. (The images do embiggen but they’re originally pretty grainy scans from halftone, from Guns magazine in October, 1959[.pdf]).


Remembering something about this, we hit the Unconventional Warfare Operations Research Library, and in its needs-better-organized 3,000+ volume stacks, we found the following in Robert K. Brown’s Merc: American Soldiers of Fortune from the 1980s:

As Morgan later related in an interview with author Brown: “The Cuban Army periodically sent out two thousand to three thousand troops in offensive thrusts into the mountains to hunt us down and destroy our small bands. We were always outnumbered at least thirty to one. Some twenty or thirty of us would stay on the soldiers’ backs; we wouldn’t let them alone. As soon as one group would break off another would take up the attack. That was how we had to fight. Why? We needed the guns.”

Weapons were indeed a problem. The 26 July Movement was getting most of the foreign support going to the Cuban revolutionaries. Their public-relations personnel and contacts in the United States were better than any other group at the time. Even when weapons were shipped to the Second Front, Castro’s men frequently managed to intercept them.

Morgan found an experienced gunsmith who had seen action in the Spanish Civil War and in a number of South American revolutions and intrigues. Captain Camacho, as he was called, scrounged up welding equipment, lathes, and a forge, to set up the revolution’s army. He invented unique, effective weapons to compensate for the guerrillas’ shortfall, making them out of parts available or captured locally. An inventive genius, one of his more widely known items was called the “Cuban-Winchester” by those who used it. He used the frame of a .44 lever action Winchester rifle produced in the 1890s and combined it with parts from Winchester semi-automatic rifles, M-1 Garand rifles, and a few handmade parts. He reamed out his own barrels and, depending on what ammo was available locally, the user could select .45 ACP, U.S. .30 carbine, or 9mm caliber by switching barrels. The weapon could utilize many different types of pistol magazines, including the efficient Luger 32-round “snail drum.”

Morgan reported that this gun bad limited accuracy, but was highly regarded due to its firepower. He himself preferred British 9mm submachine guns, due to their light weight and the light weight of the 9mm ammo. During the guerrilla experiences, he noted the difference a heavier gun and ammo made when trying to move fast and far.

Morgan’s interview with Brown was previously used in a brief Guns Magazine report in October, 1959 (p. 17); Guns has put the entire issue online (.pdf), and here is the story:



PRODUCT OF CUBAN ingenuity and Yankee drive is the “Cuban Winchester,” emergency weapon of the revolution. Commandante William Morgan, an American fighting with the Revolutionary Army, thought up the idea in searching for greater firepower. Together with Captain Camacho, grizzled old gunsmith who had fought in the Spanish Civil War, the recent Venezuelan fracas and other South American scrapes, they put together 10 of the conglomerate arms pictured — prize creation of Camacho’s machine shop in the hills which also turned out grenades, machine guns, home-made cannon and anti-tank mines. It took three or four men about two weeks to complete one gun. In this little gem, the slide. recoil and trigger mechanism are a blending of M-l Carbine and handmade parts inside a Winchester .351 Self-Loading frame. The stock is whittled out by hand. Rebored interchangeable barrels allowed Morgan’s men to fire .45, 9mm, or .30 Carbine ammo, depending on what was for supper that night. Ammo capacity depended on the type of magazine used: either altered Star pistol clips or a drum.

According to Morgan, the short barrel length limited accuracy to “about 25 yards. However, it threw enough lead to allow us to even up the odds a little, as well as give confidence to the men,” the 30-year old ex-paratrooper told me. “Morgan’s combat experience included a world wide assortment of weapons, but he prefers the British Sten or improved Sterling submachine guns. He described the British weapons as having less recoil and weight yet a greater effective range than the American Thompson or M3 grease gun. “Furthermore,” he emphasized, “weight difference between 9 mm ammo and .45 makes a hell of a difference in favor of the 9mm when you’re off on a 40 mile hike in the Cuban backwoods.”


The gun is also mentioned, briefly, in Aran Shetterly’s The Americano: Fighting with Castro for Cuba’s Freedom, another bio of Morgan. Shetterly describes Morgan (pp. 160-161) as

[P]osing with a “Cuban Winchester” (a regular bolt-and-lever Winchester rifle that the weapons doctor, Regino Camacho, had turned into a semiautomatic).

Previously, Shetterly introduced Camacho (p. 56):

 Like young baseball players being handed their first uniforms, bats, and gloves, Menoyo’s men thrilled at the sight of the shipment of arms. It was an odd assortment of weapons from shady dealers and pawnshops from Miami to New Jersey. There were 50 Italian carbines, a Thompson submachine gun and two English Stens that could fire 550 rounds per minute, two Springfield rifles, a Garand, five Remington semi-automatic rifles, one M1 and two M3’s, carbines, and thousands of rounds of munition [sic]. Menoyo handled the Sten to Morgan, knowing that he was one of the few men in the group who could handle a submachine gun.

In addition to the weapons, there were tents, uniforms, knapsacks, lanterns, and other essential tools and supplies, including a few old military helmets. One of these was a big, heavy Nazi helmet that a pawnshop proprietor had tossed in with the guns. Only one young man, a country boy named Publio, had a head big enough to wear it – and he did.

Every piece of hand-me-down war refuse would find a home. The weapons that didn’t work would be investigated and retooled by a bespectacled Spanish machinist named Regino Camacho. Camacho could turn a rifle into a submachine gun, or fit the clip of an American repeating rifle into the equivalent Italian firearm.

The single “Cuban Winchester” ever seen in photos appears to have been made from a .351 Winchester 1907 semiauto, based on the photos, not a lever action. This was a simple blowback design, meant to be a less expensive competitor to Remington’s expensive Browning-designed Model 8. It is fitted with a new stock including a pistol grip, a new forearm with the operating handle relocated to the right side, a cut-down barrel, and a strange drum magazine made from the drum of a 1st Model Luger TM.08 “snail” drum, and the body of a straight magazine of some kind.

The weapon is claimed to have been made in a quantity of 10, but Morgan’s Second Front were excellent propagandists and poor narrators, so all we know for sure is that one was made. No image shows more than a single firearm.

Moreover, no picture we have shows more than one single firearm or any variation that suggests more than one existed. In addition, no photo shows anything that might be the interchangeable barrel mechanism, and all pictures appear to show the same 1st Model TM.08 snail drum, a unit that was designed for the 9mm cartridge and would not adapt well to some of the rounds claimed for the “Cuban Winchester.”

Is this, perhaps, a propaganda weapon designed to promote the 2nd Front? Or, perhaps, even, to conceal the 2nd Front’s actual weapons sources? Did it even function? In some details it resembles the gangster specials of the 1930s, like the Hyman Lebman guns made for the Dillinger gang, as recounted here in 2013.

Replica of the Hyman Lebman Dillinger Gun, which may have inspired Camacho.

Replica of the Hyman Lebman Dillinger Gun, the original of which may have inspired Camacho.

A tragic figure, Morgan was a subordinate leader to Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo in something called the Second Front of the Escambray, a revolutionary group whose opposition to Batista was grounded in Enlightenment republican thought and values, as opposed to the Movimiento 26º de Julio whose values were those of Marxism-Leninism. They quickly came into opposition with the dominant Communists after the Revolution, and tried to play double-agents between the Communist Castro brothers and Che on the one hand, and the staunchly anticommunist Dominican dictator, Rafael Trujillo. Morgan and Menoyo had been betrayed by the US Ambassador, who at the time was operating under the sway of Castro’s and Che’s ostensible charisma. Not knowing whether or not they could trust Morgan, Castro and Che solved the problem their usual way, having Morgan shot after their victory. His wife was allowed to emigrate to the United States in the Mariel boatlift. Menoyo escaped to the USA, but would be betrayed on a later mission to Cuba and spend decades in prison.

Despite Morgan’s boast to Brown of being an “ex-paratrooper,” he was no such thing. Morgan was an Army veteran, but as if often the case among would-be mercenaries, he was a failure as a soldier, earning only a dishonorable discharge. The state of Cuban guerrilla training in the late 1950s was such that even such an undistinguished and brief career made him a one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind.

None of these books is entirely trustworthy about Morgan. The Brown book lapses into mercenary fandom, and the new biography, written by two Toledo Blade journalists, commits the usual journalistic sins; true to newsroom culture, they don’t let themselves be distracted from good storytelling by a meaningless quest for accuracy. For example, while there are multiple legends of such things as Morgan’s death, the narrative-happy journos pick the one that most serves their narrative arc, and don’t even inform their readers that there are others.

Here is the video, from JMantime, whose channel has a lot of weapons-related content. We’re not aware of any photos of the Cuban Winchester other than the handful in this video, which were all in Brown’s Guns magazine article.



Brown, Robert K., and Mallin, Jay. Merc: American Soldiers of Fortune. New York: McMillan, 1979.

Sallah, Michael, and Weiss, Mitch. The Yankee Comandante: The Untold Story of Courage, Passion, and One American’s Fight to Liberate Cuba. Guilford, CT: Lyons Press, 2015.

Shetterly, Aran. The Americano: Fighting with Castro for Cuba’s Freedom. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 2007.

Apart from the sources listed above and linked in the article, there’s a trove of Morgan-related material at, including a good bit of primary source material, and many of the Toledo Blade stories that were fleshed out into Sallah and Weiss’s book. Retrieve from:

Small Town Police Work (aka From the Blotter)

mayberrydoordecalBefore you think your career in law enforcement will be like DragnetAdam-12, CHiPs, or maybe The Wire, you should spend some time talking to local cops. However, when they hear you dream of being a cop, they will tell you tall tales (when the outburst of laughter ends).

So a way to, as we used to say in the Army, “G2 the Course” a little bit, it’s hard to beat the local blotter, which is probably published in your local paper, to see what cops really do.

In our little part of the globe, it’s a lot more Mayberry than SWAT.

Little Town Blotter

Nov. 26.
11:33 a.m.: Investigated a past-tense burglary at the Rye Parsonage.
5:40 p.m.: Responded to Sagamore Road for a minor crash, no injuries.
10:56 p.m.: Responded to Pioneer Road for a minor crash, no injuries.
11:40 p.m.: Arrested a 16-year-old on the charges of conduct after an accident, reckless operation, possession of drugs in a motor vehicle and possession and use of tobacco products by a minor.
Nov. 27
6:15 p.m.: Responded to Washington Road, at Lang Road for a minor crash.
11:29 p.m.: Responded to Love Lane for a tree down in the road.
Nov. 28
3:09 a.m.: Assisted the Fire Department on Carbee Drive.
10:40 p.m.: Arrested Amber R. Sunday, 24, 198 Main St., No. 2, Epping, on a bench warrant and on the charges of driving after revocation or suspension and speeding.
Nov. 29
2:25 p.m.: Responded to Grove Road for wires down.
3:47 p.m.: Assisted the Fire Department on Washington Road.
9:10 pm.: Checked the area of Perkins Road and Central Road for a report of shots fired. Nothing was found.

Big City (pop. 28k) Blotter

Dec. 12.
6:44 a.m.: Investigated a report of criminal mischief on Ladd Street.
7:15 a.m.: Responded to Market Square for a report of solicitation. The person was moved on.

10:28 p.m.: Caller reports the theft of two packages delivered by UPS to to a Coakley Road residence.
10:38 p.m.: Took a report of harrassment from a resident of Rockland Street.

Across the River in Maine Blotter

Dec. 2.
12:45 p.m.: A resident of Beech Ridge Road reported someone hacked into her email and hijacked her accounts.
3:18 p.m.: Resident of Cider Hill Road reports a weathervane on her roof that has been there for 50 years had been stolen.
9:25 p.m.: Caller reported that he left his phone at the Union Bluff and wanted to know the best way to get it back.
9:41 p.m.: Driver warned for operating one way in the wrong direction on the Spur Road.

Dec. 4.
3:17 p.m.: Large male cat, gray with white chest and paws, reported missing from Eldridge Road.
8:18 p.m.: Minor driver stopped on Long Beach Avenue and warned for expired registration, speeding, operating with suspended registration. Officer told her to have her parents call him when she gets home.

Dec. 5.
12:34 a.m.: Following a motor vehicle stop on Route 1, Eric Ferrand, 29, 801 Route 1, York, was summonsed on charges of violating conditions of release and operating while license is suspended or revoked.
6:12 a.m.: Police fielded a call, the fourth that week, from a woman who said people are creating rumors about her. An officer is working on the case and has contacted adult protective services.

As you see, there’s crime, but it’s small-time. (The stolen weathervane, for example, has already been converted into cash, and then drugs. If it was brass or bronze, an unscrupulous metal dealer — is there any other kind? — bought it).

There’s a lot more of the vague complaints of harassment, neighbor boundary disputes, and things like the last sample in the Maine department, mentally ill people wasting cops’ time.

The Maine department also found a cat, but it was apparently not the one reported absent by another family — it was found in a barn and taken to a shelter.