Cartridges in Transition 1850-80

There’s a traditional understanding that weapons development moved by a sort of punctuated equilibrium through neat phases, like these for muzzleloaders:

black_powder_model

And these for cartridges:

cartridge_model

But in fact, the conversion from muzzle to breech loader was complicated by a great many factors. For one thing, until it got figured out, nobody had figured it out yet. In that little tautology is wrapped the whole conundrum of how it took about 50 to 75 years for what we now see as the obvious advantages of the centerfire, cup-primed, rimless cartridge to become the modern world standard for service arms, and to drive the earlier systems out of “professional” use, such as big-game hunting, long-range target shooting, military service, and armed self-defense. (Most police service counts in our books as armed self-defense. No officer expects to spend his day shooting people, and most of them retire without ever having done more than cover a suspect with a sidearm).

Impediments to working out “best practices” included the state of metallurgy and manufacturing at the time, the delays caused by patents and patent squabbles, and ultimately, not only the natural ignorance of what those theoretical best practices might turn out to be in practice, but unclarity on and lack of vision of the potential that cartridge firearms would bring forward. (Probably not one in a hundred early cartridge developers imagined autoloading or machine guns).

Most people informed about firearms know that rimfire rounds were developed originally by Flobert and preceded centerfire cartridges by a wide margin. But most people don’t know how similar early centerfire and rimfire cartridges were, or how many other oddball efforts came and went during the years in which those ignition systems fought it out — or why centerfire finally won.

Most people can’t name the first successful centerfire (non-revolver) repeating rifle in the United States, but when they’re told the name, it’s a name they know as an important gun: the Winchester 1873. (Earlier Winchesters, like the Henrys from which they evolved, were rimfires). The initial ’73, in what Winchester called the “Winchester .44 Model 1873 cartridge” that later became known as the .44 WCF or .44-40, was a centerfire gun but it didn’t use either Boxer or Berdan primers. It used a now-forgotten system, the Milbank primer. milbank_primed_cartridgeThe Milbank cartridge had a sheet-brass base soldered to a brass tube; at its center was a primer pocket. The primer, when unfired, had the appearance of a firing pin dent in it already. These rounds were not reliable and Winchester changed to the Boxer system, and the rest is history.

Isaac Milbank’s patent is 93,546 dated 10 Aug 69; Boxer’s is 91,818 dated 29 Jun 69 (but based on his English patent of 13 October 66), and Berdan’s was 82,587, dated 29 Sep 68.

The US Army adopted the Benet primer, an internal primer (and there were other different types of internal primers), for use in the trapdoor Springfield rifles and carbines. Externally, these cartridges have a smooth back, like rimfires. The annular crimp is a give-away.

benet_primedThe cartridges found in cavalry positions at the Battle of the Little Big Horn site were Benet-primed.

Julia-auction-Trapdoor_BigHorn_14

As long as centerfire cartridges were flimsy constructions like this, centerfire was not deploying all its arsenal against rimfire. It would be the drawn brass, thick-head cartridge that would make apparent the superiority of centerfire over rimfire, other things being equal.

The armies of Europe were moving ahead, but to single-shot rifles. Intermediate ignition systems like pinfire and needle-fire were prominent in European ordnance circles.

Other oddities like cord and wire extraction were used in some early breechloaders. In these peculiar rounds, there was no rim, but instead, as the name suggests, a cord or wire was provided for pulling the cartridge back out after firing it. The flop-ear or rabbit-ear cartridge used a piece of sheet metal as the extraction hand-hold.

The oddest, though, might have been the annular-fire cartridge. It was an egg-shaped cartridge, rounded at both ends (the front, the bullet, and the back, the rear of the case, fit into a machined chamber). The primer was in a protrusion at the cartridge’s widest point. The Crispin cartridge (shown) was an annular-fire cartridge with a flat back to its casing.crispin_cartridgeThis protrusion made extraction relatively simple. In effect, it was a rimfire cartridge with the rim around the middle — something only worthwhile as a patent end-around.

Ammunition historians tend to lump these early cartridges in together as “metallic primitives,” cousins to the non-metallic “primitives,” cartridges used with muzzleloaders. But while they’re “primitive” today, the rapid fire spray of patents in the 1850s through the 1880s show that they were the high-tech of the era.

Sources

Hoyem, George A. The History and Development of Small Arms Ammunition. Four Volumes. Seattle, WA, 1983-1999.

International Armament Association, Inc. A Cartridge Collector’s Glossary, n.d.. Retrieved from: http://cartridgecollectors.org/?page=glossary

Leave the Lying to the Trained Professionals!

COPSLIE plate

You won’t believe who’s all bent out of shape because cops told a lie.

In Santa Maria, California, the police chief issued a false press release that two petty criminals had been arrested and handed over to ICE. And the press duly reported it. Why did the cops lie? So they had time to nab the two small-time hoods before another gang, MS-13, carried out a plan to murder them.

While the mild deception worked perfectly, and nobody got whacked, the media are outwaged. The news director of KSBY-TV, one Kendra Martinez, was “deeply troubled”:

[W]e are concerned this type of deception can erode the basic trust of our residents and viewers.

Heh, heh, the TV news gal says “basic trust.” Bwahahahahaaaa!

We’re sure that her outwage has nothing to do with the fact a double murder is much, much better for ratings, when you’re an “it bleeds, it leads” outfit like KSBY-TV.

She wasn’t alone. A professor at a journalism school executed a Grandmaster Level concern troll:

…it could raise questions about the department’s future credibility. However, he said the public is unlikely to appreciate the importance of that issue, particularly when the police said it was matter of life and death.

Anybody seen any credibility or trust survey numbers of police relative to journalists lately? Not that professor, apparently.

Let’s hear from the editor of Santa Maria’s one hanging-on-by-its-fingernails newspaper, Marga Cooley:

They used a public system paid for with public dollars to present false information to the public.

“‘What is NPR?’ Journalism for $2000, Alex!”

Of course, newspapers too sell more papers, increase their ABC circulation, and can charge their advertisers more money, when they have murders to report. Peace and harmony is great for society, but it blows for journalists.

It wasn’t just the lives of the two small time crooks, José Melendez and his other brother José Melendez (seriously. They do have different middle names), that the cops were trying to save, but the integrity of a long-running and complex gang operation, Operation Matador, which subsequently bagged 17 members of MS-13 and related gangs for 10 murders and conspiracies to whack 8 more people (including, presumably, los hermanos Melendez). After the operation was completed, and the accused murders and miscellaneous malefactors were safely dossing down in durance vile, the cops then admitted their ruse — and set off a media tantrum of purest distilled outwage. 

It really blew us away that, of all the people to get upset about the cops telling a little white lie, it would be the same media who celebrate Walter Duranty, Herbert Matthews, Janet Cooke Stephen Glass, Mike Barnicle, Jayson Blair… need we go on? You can tell they’re lyin’, ’cause their lips are moving.

Suddenly they’re very concerned that the police might bruise their credibility. Well, they would know what bruised credibility looks like, wouldn’t they? Strict neutrality between the police and MS-13 may be what a journalist calls righteous these days, but it’s unlikely to bring the trust back.

When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws will have Hippie Building Codes

Sheriff's Department aerial photo. Yellow tarps mark found bodies.

Sheriff’s Department aerial photo. Yellow tarps mark found bodies.

“Artists” and other hippies seem to have been behind a warehouse that was crudely converted to a party location in Oakland. They had cleverly dodged inspection by city building and fire authorities for years; there appears to have been no attempt at electrical or fire code compliance: no fire escapes, no emergency exits, no interior walls except of inflammable fuels, no CO detectors, no smoke detectors, and no sprinklers.

For those inside: no hope, no options, no chance.

It was the kind of building for which the term “firetrap” was coined, with nine confirmed and dozens more expected to be dead after a blaze Friday night. Cluttered like a hoarder house, the space laid out and decorated with a hippie burnout’s sensibility impeded firefighters as it burned out for real during a rave sponsored by an electronic music label.

A city inspector had attempted to secure access to the building on November 17, but the official was not able to enter inside.  The city has not confirmed people were living inside. 

Also during the press conference, a city official said the building had no permits for a party to be held at the space.

Deloach-Reed said that fire crews found a ‘makeshift stairwell’ between the first and second floor and that most people who died were on the second floor of the building that only had two exits.

The two exits were both on the ground floor. Going up — away from the fire, perhaps? — sealed those people’s doom. (Going higher is generally inadvisable in fires, as toxic combustion product gases rise).

The owners, inhabitants, and other users of the cluttered building apparently thought neither set of laws applied to them: municipal, or physics.

oakland-warehouse-rabbit-warren

Before: a cluttered firetrap with no way out.

She said that when fire crews first entered the building to fight the blaze, they were impeded by a massive amount of clutter that included furniture, art and several mannequins.

‘It filled end to end with furniture, whatnot, collections,’ Deloach-Reed said. ‘It was like a maze almost.’

Mazes are fun, but you wouldn’t want to stake your life on one.

She said 50 to 100 people were believed to have been at the party when the fire started and that clutter ‘made it difficult for people to escape.’ 

At the link there are many pictures of the missing, who bear the usual markers of Millennial meaninglessness: tats, piercings, vacant looks, and hipster given names like Feral, Caw, Ara, Cash, Denalda and Jalien. Nine crisp bodies were located by Saturday morning, but only one could be removed from the unstable ruins.

A slice of life, and death, in the California rave culture.

Traitor Requests Preemptive Pardon

mad-magazine-trading-private-bergdahlWith the motions phase of his trial not going well, Bowe Bergdahl — through his radical lawyers led by elderly Stalinist retread Eugene Fidell — has requested that his name be added to President Obama’s last great list of pardoned prestoopniki.

The request for pardon shows, perhaps, that Bergdahl and his lawyers know what’s been obvious to anyone following his saga — the dude’s guilty, guilty, guilty.

White House and Justice Department officials said Saturday that Bergdahl had submitted copies of the clemency request seeking leniency. If granted by Obama, it would allow Bergdahl to avert a military trial scheduled for April where he faces charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The misbehavior charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

If the pardon isn’t granted, Bergdahl’s defense team said it will expand its legal strategy to the new administration by filing a motion arguing President-elect Donald Trump violated his due process rights with scathing public comments about the case.

Bergdahl deserted his post in 2009 and went over to the Taliban. Hundreds of Americans risked their necks searching for him, and some of them were killed. Others suffered life-changing wounds.

In May 2014, the Administration made a secret deal with the Taliban to swap 5 terrorist leaders detained in the Guantanamo Bay facility for the traitor. Unlike the men who were placed at risk or injured seeking him, or the families of the slain, or, for that matter, any of the soldiers who went to Afghanistan and did their duty, the turncoat’s release was celebrated by President Obama. Giving the President’s general tilt towards jihadi terrorists and against American fighting men, a pardon is a real possibility.

Bergdahl is unlikely to be as celebrated by President-Elect Trump, who has pointed out that “in the old days,” we shot traitors like him.

Fidell, the Leftover Left activist leading Bergdah’s delay-disrupt-deny defense, thinks he can use Trump’s hostility to his client to get the traitor sprung, if appealing to Obama’s fondness for his client doesn’t work.

Fidell said he plans to file a motion seeking dismissal of the charges against Bergdahl shortly after the January inauguration, arguing Trump violated Bergdahl’s constitutional due-process rights.

The defense has been noting Trump’s comments about Bergdahl in what they’ve dubbed the “Trump Defamation Log.” A version included in the court record lists 40 such instances as of August.

“All of these things put together and repeated rally upon rally for basically a year have a cumulative effect that I think is totally at odds with the right to a fair trial,” Fidell said in a phone interview.

Unfortunately for Gene Fidell, whose dream world would be a regime where radical lawyers could control who could speak and what they could say, his dream isn’t becoming real.

Good luck with the technicalities, because everyone knows, regardless of legal maneuvers, that Bowe Bergdahl is a traitor and a prince of Blue Falconry. Even the Taliban don’t want him back!

Everything Comes Full Circle: Haenel StG is Back

“So what?” you say. “It’s another AR. Yawn.”

haenel_cr223_gross_04

Ah, but whose AR? It’s the CR 223, made by CG Haenel of Suhl, who once made the MKb42(h), which then became the MP43, MP44, and StG 44. The CR 223 is made for the European market, primarily for European governmental use; we’re not expecting to see them on these shores, but it’s always interesting to see a dormant trademark wake and shake itself back into relevance.

haenel_logo_alt_01

Old Haenel Logo (pre-1945)

C.G. Haenel, the traditional manufacturer from Suhl, is now offering its own version of a semi-automatic rifle in the popular AR 15 standard. The Haenel CR223 in the .223 Rem. calibre is an indirect gas-pressure loader that is fully compatible with the basics of this class. For Key Account Manager Björn Dräger, the development is a step towards new rifle classes – at the same time the company is building on from old expertise. C.G. Haenel in Suhl developed the world’s first type 44 assault rifle in the 1940’s – a rifle that not only created this rifle class but also had a decisive influence on all subsequent constructions of the same type.

Note that there’s a hint in there of more AR-like developments to come from this revived company in the ancient gunmaking center of Suhl.

The new logo is a modernization of the old.

The new logo is a modernization of the old.

If you blow up the rifle picture, and look through the slots in the forend, the gas piston system seems to be a cousin of the HK 416’s. According to Eric B at TFB, Haenel is a subcontractor to HK for some parts.

The lower receiver appears to be milled from billet and is different from that of a 416. The rifle is also available in Simunitions “blue gun” and inert “red gun” training modes, and again per TFB, has just been adopted by the Hamburg, Germany, police. (Indeed, it was that TFB article that got us looking at Haenel).

Haenel also makes a very interesting sniper rifle, the RS8 (7.62 NATO, .300 WM) and RS9 (.338LM). The RS9 was selected as the G29 mid-range sniper rifle for the Bundeswehr this year.

This is the Compact version of the RS8, although all the RS rifles have a clear family resemblance.

It has its own action using a bolt with two flights of three lugs each.

bolt-locking-end

That bolt deserves a fair amount of study. Look at the extractor, and also note the prominent gas-relief hole. The other end of the bolt shows an interesting low-profile safety and cocking (or is it loaded?) indicator:

safety-and-cocking-indicator

If you look at the bolt from an industrial point of view, there are components of it that are expensive to make, and other parts that are made inexpensively. As much thought seems to have gone into the manufacture as into the design.

There are many variations (including an integrally suppressed one rifled for subsonic .308!), but the company seems to pride itself on a complete systems approach, delivering to the using agency a complete package from fully-accessorized hardware, to maintenance, to training.

C.G. Haenel traces its roots to 1840, when it was founded by Carl Gottlieb Haenel, a member of the (then, Royal) Prussian Rifle Commission. It made arms and bicycles. (A less odd combination than you might think. Many other companies did this in the 19th and 20th Centuries, like FN in Belgium). Haenel’s own firm made the rifle approved by that commission, and later the Imperial German Reichsrevolver, and during the First World War, the Mauser 98a rifle.

After the war, with military weapons production verboten, new engineer Hugo Schmeisser led the introduction of pocket pistols of his own design.  Schmeisser came from a gun-making family; he had worked with his father Louis at Bergmann, where he became interested in automatic weapons, and his brother, also named Louis, became the sales executive of Haenel in the 1920s. Working intitially in secrecy, Hugo developed from the MP.18 the MP.28. Unable to produce machine pistols (submachine guns) for export under the terms of Versaillles, Haenel made a small quantity for the German Polizei (making the Hamburg cop sale some 80 years later particularly fitting) and arranged to have them mass-produced for the international market by Bayard of Belgium (which had long ties to Suhl).

The firm barely survived the Depression, but Hitler’s 1934 repudiation of the Treaty of Versailles lifted the crippling restrictions on both domestic military sales and arms exports. The military ordered vast quantities of weapons. (The common Haenel Waffenamt marking is fxo). Suhl was occupied by US forces in April 1945, and handed to the USSR in June. The Soviets removed the machinery, tools, and drawings from the plant as partial payment for the German destruction of much of European Russia.

Corporate history gets vague during the period of Soviet occupation, 1945-90, but what happened was that the Haenel trademarks were at one time in use by the West German Merkel firm, mostly on air guns, while the former Haenel plant became part of the “Ernst Thälmann” weapons factory complex, and in East Germany the Haenel trademark was used on some sporting arms, including different air guns.

In 2008, the Merkel group set up a new C.G. Haenel firm in Suhl, restoring its title, trademarks and lineage, and that’s the one producing these new firearms.

Sunday Spuddling

“Spuddling”? The Phrontistery defines “spuddle” as “to work feebly or ineffectively; to perform shallow agricultural ploughing,” which is what it just felt like doing as we assaulted the sea of oak leaves in back of the house. By tonight, they all will be gone, except the inevitable stragglers. But you may be sure that it took rather a lot of spuddling.

Yesterday a young fellow with a truck showed up at Hog Manor looking for work. We have had no handyman since our last one vanished without a trace in 2011 or so. We made an arrangement, and he came back with a crew and leveled a sagging stone patio, and as a bonus fixed a dangling floodlight. He left a business card. I think we have secured a new handyman; there’s always something more that needs work, something any homeowner great or small has experienced. We’re rather proud of having done the leaves, winterized the fountain, and rearranged the garage to hold two cars and an airplane-in-progress without resorting to a checkbook solution. Next challenge may be the walkway lights. And at some point we need to winterize the mower.

Today, Your Humble Blogger is being a Bad Brother and Worse Uncle. His favorite niece is dancing her biggest role yet in a local Nutcracker, and one feels a bit bad about giving it a miss, but, the venue is a hassle to get to, and so we are exercising Crotchety Old Man Privilege. Next year, she may be Clara for the first time, and there’ll be no getting out of it. (Yes, she’s that good).

Our Saturday Matinee for yesterday will be backdated (perhaps this evening) for the simple reason that we ran out of time to re-watch the classic old film. Working on it! We promise it has lots of action, stars, guns, and Hollywood fireball explosions.

We’re going to try to have some useful infotainment for all of you this week, and we’re still writing on two books simultaneously. Life is good, and never dull.

Saturday Matinee 2016 48: The Wild Geese (British, 1978)

the-wild-geeseThe Wild Geese is a 1978 mercenary movie largely written and filmed in the tradition and with the sensibility of classic all-star war movies like The Guns of Navarone, or even action westerns like The Magnificent Seven (the real one). You have a small group of sharply-formed characters presented with a mission against astronomical odds, which keep getting more astronomical as the mission plays out through the planning and execution stages, until finally, they prevail through adversity and sacrifice. Or not.

Rewatching it recently, the harsh opinion we had of it as young troopers in 10th Special Forces Group had somewhat mellowed by time, and by the sheer formulaic repetition of 21st Century action movies. It was a thoroughly enjoyable “combat procedural,” even though the procedures at times were Hollywood enough to put your teeth on edge.

It begins when an old mercenary colonel, Alan Faulkner (Richard Burton), is contracted by the amoral businessman Sir Edward Matheson (Stewart Granger) to rescue deposed African politician Julius Limbani (Winston Ntshona). Limbani is beloved of his countrymen, partucularly his own tribe, but Matheson could care less; he has just reached an impasse in copper concession negotiations with the successor that deposed Limbani, General Ndofa. Ndofa and his elite Simba troops run a typical African state of the period (or nearly any period): a brutal, kleptocratic dystopia. As Matheson explains it, the mission is simple: liberate Limbani before Ndofa can execute him, and then Limbani will rally the nation to overthrow Ndofa.

Securing financing from Matheson and the services of three officers, two of whom he demanded based on past service, a sergeant major, and some colorful NCOs, Faulkner recruits a small company and trains it in Swaziland. The training is interesting (if fanciful), but before you know it, the mission timetable is pushed up and through a splendidly performed (if fanciful) HALO jump, and they’re in the target nation and game is on. At this point, you might not have noticed it, but a whole hour of the movie has elapsed. 

Lower flag, seen for only a second, is the Wild Geese flag. Watch for it!

Lower flag, seen for only a second, is the Wild Geese flag. Watch for it!

In combat, nothing goes according to Rafer Janders’s (Richard Harris) brilliant plan. Can he plan as well on his feet as he could back in London? The game is afoot, and bullets are flying.

Acting and Production

There are few movies with such an all-star cast: Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Roger Moore, and Hardy Kruger play the four officers of the fifty-man mercenary outfit. Each plays a very distinct character: Burton plays Faulkner, a hopeless drunk when he wasn’t working. (Burton, who could be a hopeless drunk, was on the wagon when he was shooting The Wild Geese); he’s in it because it’s the only thing he knows how to do. Harris plays Janders, who’s happily retired and trading art, but whose planning skills Faulkner wants, but whose idealism Faulkner could do without; he’s in it because he believes in the unifying message of the threatened African politician, Limbani. Roger Moore plays a wisecracking, impulsive guy, Shawn Fynn, not too dissimilar from Moore’s then-current version of Bond; he’s in it for the laughs, although he won’t say no to money. And Kruger turns in an excellent performance (with one jarring note) as Pieter Coetzee, an apolitical South African whose contempt for idealists of all colors and genres has always served him well. He wants his paycheck to buy a farm. (Kruger has been quite hard on his performance and on director Andrew McLaglen in interviews).

Each character’s identity is deftly drawn in a few short scenes, Fynn’s including considerable action, that at one point is looking like a set-piece battle between mercenaries and mafia.

The secondary actors, to an even greater extent, make the film. Winston Ntshona is insistent and proud as Limbani, whose interplay with Kruger’s Coetzee is perfect, apart from the one jarring note. Kruger has completely sold the audience on the idea of a hard-core Afrikaner who sees the refined Limbani as just another “kaffir,” but has come around to respect him, and then he takes the familiarity one step too far, calling Limbani, “bloke.” Had the script understated that as “man,” it wouldn’t have been jarring and unbelievable.

A standout performance is Frank Findlay as Irish missionary, Father Geohegan, whose default form of address for the mercenaries is, “You murtherin’ baahstahds.” An actor with an interesting backstory is Ian Yule, who plays Tosh Donaldson. He was an actual mercenary, in the 60s in the Congo with Mike Hoare.

The movie was shot largely on location in Africa, and so avoids the menace of trying to sell California or London as some exotic location.

Accuracy and Weapons

The cool thing about a movie about a fictional mercenary band is that you can use almost any guns you want — and they do.  Most of the guns are what you’d expect to find in Africa in the 1970s, including lots of FALs (several different kinds) and Uzis. The sergeant major carries a Sterling. They look like a rum bunch in this inside-the-Hercules shot:

wild_geese_hercules

Yes some of it’s very Hollywood, like the thermonuclear flame grenades.

wild_geese_nuclear_hand_grenade

And there’s the use of cyanide crossbow bolts, which makes up for being tactically loopy by being a very well-shot practical effect. Ready, aim…

wild_geese_crossbow_kruger

Fire!

wild_geese_crossbow_victim

Cyanide also makes an appearance as a way to make a barracks of sleeping guards nod off permanently. In addition, look at the weapon held by the guy on the left: a dreadful Madsen submachine gun.

wild_geese_gas_madsen

Crew-served weapons include Bren guns, Blindicides (called “bazookas,” and in one case, loaded with a mortar bomb), FN-MAGS, and a Vickers. Surely we’re missing some. The movie’s a gun-spotter’s delight.

Inaccuracies include the breathtaking parachute jump, which is unfortunately shot day-for-night. (If they were going to fake so much of the rest of it, why not have a day jump?) No, you don’t depressurize at 30,000 feet without oxygen.

wild_geese_jump_scene

The parachute “training” was unrealistic, too, with a 15-foot or so high PLF platform.

The bottom line

The Wild Geese is a must-see. As a mission-planning and -training guide, it’s just about worthless, but it’s great fun, and produced quite a number of long-lasting SF Tropes. Two especially lasting ones were: “Men, we’ve been double-crossed,” universally delivered in one’s best Burton at the point where an exfiltration has been cancelled, postponed or delayed, and “The Aullld Dakota,” because for decades everywhere we went there was an old DC-3/C-47 — flying or derelict.

Don’t double-cross yourself. Set aside two hours to enjoy this old show!

For more information

These sites relate to this particular film.

  • Amazon.com DVD page:

https://www.amazon.com/Wild-Geese-30th-Anniversary/dp/B0009UVCQW/

  • IMDB page:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078492/

  • IMFDB page:

http://www.imfdb.org/wiki/The_Wild_Geese

  • Rotten Tomatoes review page (60% fresh):

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/wild_geese

  • Infogalactic (replaces Wikipedia) page:

https://infogalactic.com/info/The_Wild_Geese

When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws will have DCFS Support

More of these vibrant, diverse immigrants just making the headlines Americans won’t make. Let’s check in with CBS Los Angeles for a quote from the kid’s estranged (from the mother, ergo from the kid) stepfather:

Yonatan’s step father Jose Pizon held back tears as he recalled better days with his boy.

“We used to play together and we used to go out for pizza and share together,” Pizon said. “I really loved him and I miss him.”

What happened to the kid? In a word, his mom. Who’s now locked up pending trial for murder.

Eleven-year-old Yonatan Aguillar weighed just 34 pounds when police found him in a family closet in Echo Park.

Back in August, authorities located the boy in the fetal position wrapped in a blanket in the closet so small he couldn’t extend his feet. It appeared he had been dead for several hours, detectives said.

Detectives said the boy was emaciated, had little hair and open sores on his body, all signs of years of abuse.

Gee, how did a case get this bad without the cruel mom being on the radar of the Department Of Children And Family Services?

You’re kidding, right? She was on the radar of those bureaucrats, but not enough for them to actually come check on the kid.

Four years before, when reports of possible child abuse were reported,  Yonatan’s mother Veronica Aguilar, who was a volunteer at the school and attended parenting classes,  was able to convince his teachers, counselors, coaches, medical staff and social workers that her son was safe in her home.

Parenting classes. How many of these stories involved moms who had “parenting classes” from the “trained professionals” of social work mobs? And how many normal, healthy people are that way because their mom had “parenting classes” from some bureaucrat with a B.A. in something, and rounds-to-zero life experience?

Then, when Yonatan stopped showing up for school, his mother told people he had gone to live in an institution in Mexico.

You can see it happening. “Let me put that in my case notes. ‘Went to Mexico.’ OK, case closed. I’m such an awesome public servant, I better get a bonus. Hey, look, it’s almost 3 PM. Beer o’clock!”

The Volcano, Filipino Nationalism, and Tomorrow

Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991, and made negotiations for the retention of Clark AB moot.

Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991, and made negotiations for the retention of Clark AB moot.

Filipino President Duterte is wildly popular in one place, and wildly unpopular in another. The first is in his native country, where he has waged an unflinching war against drugs and crime — a war that has often rejected legal and human rights restraints, and that considers a dead dope dealer as big a check in the W column as one in handcuffs. The second is in the hearts and minds of the transnational elite, including the journalists and diplomats of just about the entire world, and especially with the elites’ Supreme Personality of Godhead, President Barack Obama. As a result, a number of bridges between the once inseparable allies have been set alight, and Duterte is cozying up to American rivals in the region, even appearing willing to cede Filipino claims to sovereignty (which the Philippines lack the ability to defend, anyway) in the contested Spratly Islands, which are now partly occupied by China.

Today, the crater lake of the resting volcano is a tourist stop, and these 1991 billows of ash turned out to be great fertilizer.

Today, the crater lake of the resting volcano is a tourist stop, and these 1991 billows of ash turned out to be great fertilizer — after, unfortunately, killing most everything green that was in their way.

The US military and the Filipino military, which was created in the American image, have always been closer than the societies in general. It will be a measure of President-Elect Trump’s ability to make deals, whether he is able to restore any of the former closeness between the two historic partners. Because, while Duterte and Obama have driven their nations apart from one another, the schism goes back decades, and is bigger than a couple of cults of personality. This page tells some of the diplomatic history of the US withdrawal from Clark Airfield (which was accelerated by the unexpected eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991) and Subic Bay, a departure which threw 140,000 skilled Filipino dock and aircraft-maintenance workers, and at least 20,000 skilled prostitutes, out of work.

The bases were closed, at Filipino demand, and the question became — would there be some sort of alliance and / or access agreement? At  that page, the then-ambassador remembers:

The reason I urged the Filipinos to keep our defense relationship active – this was in 1992 or early ‘93 – was that I felt that they were going to find the Chinese putting pressure on them as Beijing pressed its claims for the Spratly Islands and other areas in the South China Sea, some of which the Filipinos claimed….

The Chinese asserted their presence in this contested area in the South China Sea because of a growing nationalism, which led them to want to reinforce their territorial claims. But I also think they did it as a way of making everybody aware that the Americans were not around anymore, and that the Philippines and the other ASEAN countries would have to deal with China on their own.

I had urged Secretary Baker to take a fairly active position in response to Chinese efforts to put pressure on the Philippines and others who were our friends or allies in the region on the issue of the territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

I made the argument that even if we weren’t a direct claimant to these territories ourselves, if we were not seen as supporting the interests of key allies like the Philippines, then other allies in the region who are much more important to our interests – especially Japan, which had its own territorial dispute in the East China Sea with China, and Korea – would begin to have doubts about our staying power and our value as a defense partner….

Read The Whole Thing™ (and the several other diplomatic reminisces there).

Much or the damage to US interests in the Pacific Rim has been done by two administrations that saw the “little brown guys” of the region’s many proud nations as so many infantile savages to be lectured and hectored into our superior way of doing things. This policy was not a success in 1977-80 and was even less successful in 2009-2016.

This World Airways DC-10 was destroyed by Pinatubo. More photos of the eruption here at NOAA.

This World Airways DC-10 was destroyed by Pinatubo. More photos of the eruption here at NOAA.

Back in 1991-1992, the US wanted to stay, and many Filipinos wanted the US to stay. But a combination of political weakness on both sides of the negotiation, political posturing, and political opportunism, led to a different outcome.

Right now, US-Filipino relations are in a state as ruined as Clark Air Base was in 1992. If we want to repair that damage, we need to start by listening to Duterte, and not drumming on how deplorable he and his voters are. It’s their country, they get to run it. We ought to be telling them why we should, and how we can, help them, and be honest about how that will help us.

Run, Hide, Fight… and You

osu-good-somali-2In the recent Ohio State terrorist incident (you know, the one for which the press is still assiduously trying to unlock the mystery within an enigma of the attacker’s motive), campus public safety officials sent a message to all hands: Active Shooter, Run Hide Fight.

We know now that the “Active Shooter” was an error, an error that, predictably, spawned giddy glee in the gun control camp. The jihadi had a car and a machete, and followed an ISIL attack protocol we’ve seen several times in Europe this year already, but he wasn’t a shooter. However, we think that (1) the campus cops were right to send that message and (2) run, hide, fight, is good advice, and it’s probably better advice for us (licensed or authorized gun carriers) than it is for the usual defenseless collegiate population.

Let’s take those two assertions one at a time.

The Campus Cops were Right to Send, “Active Shooter, Run Hide Fight”

“But Hognose,” we can practically hear you as we write this. “There was no active shooter.” We know now that there was not, and the cops may even have had a hint that there was not. (Or not; next paragraph we’ll explain). But even if they didn’t think there was an active shooter, it was a good call for several reasons.

  1. It helps produce the desired defensive behavior (run, hide, fight);
  2. It’s a lot easier to assume that there is a shooter than to know that there is not;
  3. Historically, jihadi attacks have often involved coordinated attacks, whether it’s bombings or small arms attacks. The first thing to look for when you have one attacker is his confederates! If he hasn’t got any, you’re not as badly off for your false reaction than you would be if you didn’t do anything, and he was one of a cell of ten like we’ve seen in some attacks, or even a pair, a more common thing.
  4. And they might have thought there was an active shooter.

Why would they think that there were more shooters at large? Well, they had, apart from the room-temperature suspect, an innocent person with a gunshot wound. (This was apparently a lost round from the policeman who neutralized the suspect).

Could the campus have done some things better? Sure. But they were right to warn the campus.

“Run, Hide, Fight” is Actually a Good Protocol

A lot of armed self-defenders see themselves rushing across campus to confront an attacker in a scenario like this. We think it’s a bad idea. Better to run if you are in “escaping distance” from the threat, hide if you are invisible and unknown to the threat, and only fight if you must.

Why run? If he can already see you, moving targets are harder to hit than stationary ones. Targets further away are harder to hit than nearby ones. Opening the distance may not bring you to cover, but it does improve your odds, as does giving your assailant a target that is in relative motion, especially laterally.

Why hide? If you can access a hiding place where you are invisible and unknown to the assailant(s), you don’t ever come up in his target array.

Why fight? There’s really one best reason: if you’re cornered and must defend yourself or others’ lives. Don’t go hunting the guy; first, you moving lets him ambush you. Second, if police or a hostage rescue force strike, and you’re on the X with a gun in your hand, guess what prize you just won? Finally, if you must (or get the opportunity to) pop the guy, one of the key questions prosecutors will ask as they review the case is, “Who was the aggressor?” Don’t be that guy. It’s potentially not self-defense if you’re the one attacking.

Mental Rehearsals and “Run, Hide, Fight”

It’s important to form a mental picture of what each of these steps would look like in any place where you could potentially be attacked. We have found the drill of “mental rehearsal” worthwhile. Consider, as you go about your daily business, what would you do if this place turned into the San Berdoo social services office, or the Bataclan venue in Paris. Which way would you run? Where might you hide? Where would be the most effective place to fight?

So, as you can see, the “Run, Hide, Fight” mantra also provides you a handy mnemonic for worst-case-scenario planning and preparation, or for your “mental rehearsal.”

It’s likely that you will never face such a serious incident as the faculty, staff and students of OSU did. If you do not, the time and effort spent on preparation is a sunk cost. But if you do, nothing but time and effort spent now on preparation can avail you anything at all.

Take care out there.