Stupid Human Tricks

So you steal a gun from a museum, and then go on a national TV show and get videotaped getting it appraised?

Jim Gordon, who owns a private museum east of Santa Fe, had given up hope of ever again seeing a 1849 .44-caliber Colt Dragoon revolver stolen from his collection last year.

And then the man accused of stealing it during a tour of the Glorieta museum appeared on a nationally televised program about antique guns, trying to get the weapon appraised, according to court documents.

That episode of the Discovery Channel’s “American Guns” was seen by Jeff Hengesbaugh, the museum’s curator, who was channel surfing in a Gallup hotel when he came across the show in February.

About one year after the theft and after Hengesbaugh attempted to get the gun returned without calling the police, there was suspect Wylie Gene Newton, 65, on television, talking about the $40,000 antique.

The curator then called the cops.

Police detectives in Wheat Ridge, Colo. – where the Discovery Channel show is filmed at the Gunsmoke Guns store – later went undercover and offered to meet with Newton to buy the gun. Newton allegedly bit and was arrested by police on May 10. Newton is identified in Colorado reports as from Erie, Colo., but has an Eldorado address, too, according to New Mexico court documents.

Newton was booked into the Santa Fe County jail on a $40,000 bond Aug. 5. He had his arraignment in state District Court on Friday and will have a bond hearing at 1 p.m. Monday.

He faces a single charge of larceny in excess of $20,000, which is a second-degree felony, according to online court records.

Here’s my favorite part, though:

Gordon said Newton called him about a month ago and started talking about the weather. Gordon said he tried to remain patient until Newton got to the point, and Newton eventually said he didn’t steal Gordon’s weapon.

Gordon said Newton asked him if he thought he was stupid enough to appear on national television trying to appraise a stolen firearm.

” ‘I absolutely do,’ ” Gordon said he told Newton in response. ” ‘I think you’re totally, completely that stupid.’ “

I’d have to concur.

Quote of the Day – Tough History Coming Edition

From the comments to More on Rights:

“In other words I think the only thing that can turn this country around now is to have a strong reinforcement of existing Property Rights by the government”

I’m thinking we might have to explain them TO the Government, at sword point, eventually..

Either way someone’s gonna be ‘splain’in somethin, at the point of a sword before this plays out..

I’ve lost faith that it can be any other way..   Look at it this way..   5 years ago “prepping” was something that crazy Mormons did…   Now, there are crazy preppers on TV but..   Thousands of ‘real’ preppers quietly preparing..

It’s not that they ARE doing it.  It’s that if someone tells you “I think it’s all going to go to hell soon” you argue about ‘how’ soon is soon..    Not If..

Charles Bennett

I’ve noticed this myself in discussions with customers.  Just last weekend, Tucson had its first-ever survivalist/prepper Expo, and from all reports it was well attended.  Just not covered much by the media.

Quote of the Day – Political Realities Edition

This one from Jay G.:

The point of the article is that Obama has [X] days to do this – forgetting, conveniently, that rules are only for those people that the media actually reports about. Remember Frank Lautenberg? Remember how he was added to the NJ ballot at the very last second because Torricelli was in danger of losing? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Rules are for Republicans, not Democrats. I found it surpremely ironic that when the Torch withdrew, the hue and cry was that NJ *had* to have Lautenberg on the ballot so that the people of NJ had a choice – ZOMG THEY NEED A CHOICE. Meanwhile, in MA, John F. Kerry ran unopposed…

More on Rights

Former blogger Publicola dropped me an email this morning which I will reproduce here in its entirety (minus postscripts):

Hope you’re doing well. I’ll omit the small talk as this has the potential to be lengthy enough (though don’t take it as I’m not interested in what you’ve been up to, how things have been – etc. I is, I just know you probably don’t have loads of time, or perhaps even time to load).

Here’s what I’ve been able to piece together over the millennia decades…

Natural Rights (God Given, Vishnu Given, etc…) are simply Property Rights. They’re existence is akin to the laws of gravity – they’re there and constant you just have to figure out how to define them – after you discover they exists. But unlike Newton’s laws, Property Rights are only applicable when dealing with other humans (or sentient, sapient beings in case E.T. ever drops by).

When you’re typing out a few paragraphs or an article for submission to a magazine, Newton’s laws are irrelevant. When figuring out where to place a semi-colon you don’t refer to the rate of speed of a freefalling object; it simply does not matter. Similarly grammatical rules won’t gain you a foot of altitude if you’re flying a plane sans an engine. Well, Property Rights, that is to say Natural Rights, are like that. They’re not in place so we can write better structured essays, or keep a plane gliding to a relatively safe landing – they exist solely as a way out of the Hobbesian eternal perpetual war-against-all that mankind would otherwise succumb to. A mountain slides down on ya, Tort law won’t help you recover damages, neither will an appeal to Natural Law prevent said landslide from giving one a vigorous full-body deep tissue massage. Heinlein’s old allegory about there being no Right to life because the sea can drown you without recourse is misplaced – like saying there’s no such thing as lift since it won’t prevent you from having a triple run on sentence.

What they will do, and were designed to do, is give an individual an opportunity to become more than a mere sustenance farmer, or hunter-gatherer (though I always thought hunter-gatherers were under-rated – hunting and fishing all day? Every day? Sounds better than a cubicle migration lifestyle to me – though coming by hushpuppies or what y’all call sweet tea would be tricky). In theory, and as much as its been tried in practice, the more a culture (society, civilization, etc..) respects Property Rights the more prosperous the individuals in that society can be, hence the more prosperous that society can be.

America is a good example. We’ve never been perfect, and I’ll bitch and rant for eons about how a lot of things are unjust and immoral here, but relatively no country on earth has had a wider or more prolonged respect for Property Rights (though that’s winding down as we type). The 19th century, and early 20th century weren’t ideal, but the rate of growth, expansion and our ascendance as a world power can be viewed as a consequence of relatively broad respect for property rights. We had the freedom to build railroads, so we did. (of course by “we” I don’t mean the feds). With those railroads we had the ability to pursue commerce on a scale never really done before. But as important as the speed of rail, we had the freedom to engage in commerce without the fear of the feds “nationalizing” our sugar beet farms, or “appropriating” our grazing land to set up wind farms.

Other nations did well to varying degrees in the same time period. But not to the extent we did. Certainly not with the longevity we did. Even with the steady encroachment on Property Rights that the feds undertook in the beginning of the 20th century (which sadly continues today) we had enough of them there Property Rights to keep us afloat despite the infringement of same.

So that “American Exceptionalism” that everyone keeps whispering about wasn’t because of some genetic trait or DNA strand that we all just had – it was simply that the government A: afforded some protection of Property Rights (actually a great deal compared with the rest of the world) and B: largely kept off our backs. Again it’s relative and by no means was it ever laissez faire or perfect, but for the most part governments had a 3 martini lunch (as opposed to now where governments seem to be alumni of Betty Ford).

But what specifically are Property Rights? Locke had it – at least the beginnings of it – and also unknowingly began to answer the query “What is morality?”

Property begins with your self. Your mind and body are yours and no one else’s. You can rent them out, but you can never actually transfer ownership – not while living at least. Through force you can be enslaved (so long as you value life above freedom at least) but this is not natural – it’s a perversion (much like N’Sync).   Like any Natural law (Newtonian Gravity, Relativity, that one about not swimming 30 minutes after you eat, etc.) they can be physically violated but not without consequence. When you try to break any part of the law of Gravity the consequences are usually immediate. With Natural Law it’s more a delayed comeuppance. But Natural laws were meant to have a long term effect (think decades), whereas Gravity has a short term (though constant) effect (think seconds – very scary seconds).

So you own your body and your mind and they’re non-transferable. That means you also own the products of your body and mind; your thoughts, ideas, actions all belong to you. Those however you can rent out and in some cases sell outright. But here’s the thing – it has to be consensual. At this point The Right to Contract kicks in.

The Right to Contract is a necessary derivative of Property Rights. In essence it just holds that you can exchange anything you possess (except your mind & body) for anything you wish to possess as long as both parties freely agree to such trade.

As an aside there, are four ways in which humans interact with each other to exchange goods and/or services; Trade, Manipulation (which would include fraud and deceit) Coercion and Force. The last 3 are, to use the technical term, bad. They’re bad because they violate that whole Contract law thingy, and pragmatically they have less than cool consequences for all concerned somewhere down the road. Without some means of arbitration, such as a tort system centered on Contract Law and Property Rights, the latter 3 are the most convenient means of exchange, and severely stunt any society’s growth, unless you think a feudal-esque system or warlords or Mafioso are somehow growth.

In any event, you own your labor and your creativity, but you can exchange those for other goods or services through Contract.  What you receive in exchange for your creativity and/or labor becomes your Property just as surely as your labor and creativity were your Property. No one can justly or morally take them away from you, though they can be taken unjustly or immorally. Remember, Property Rights are Natural Laws but not Physical Laws. Violating them has negative consequences but not necessarily immediate consequences.

Here’s where you and to some extent I spent our focus for so long (at least when I was writing). It is essential as well as a natural offshoot of Property Rights to be able to protect said property from unjust taking. In other words, this is where Self-Defense comes into play.  Also this is where owning property appropriate for Self Defense emerges.  After all, what security does one have in Property Rights if the thief or thug or congressman (but I repeat myself) can walk in unmolested and waltz out with your property that you acquired through an exchange of your labor and/or creativity?

By most accounts we’re a heavily armed society. It’s arguable that we have the most liberal self defense laws of any developed nation. That means we have the strongest protection of Property Rights of any nation extant. It’s not as strong as I’d prefer, but that relative thing puts us miles above damn near anywhere else on the whole.

Now this is not to say that societies that do not value Property Rights cannot be prosperous to some extent. It’s just that such prosperity will be short lived (and in societies short lived isn’t a matter of years, more like decades or centuries).

So Ownership of Self, Contract and Defense comprise the three tenets of Property Rights. You’ll note (cause I know you’re sharp like that) that the consensual nature of Contract (under a properly viewed Property Rights system) negates “free health care” or “free widescreen TVs.” In fact looking at this thing like it should be looked at (that is to say, not making exceptions for every whim 51% of the people want) a correct view of Property Rights would hold that permits for individual activity, income taxes, value added taxes, estate taxes (in fact all but the most modest of sales taxes, and even those are iffy), subsidized anything (Social Security, Medicaid, Obamacare, Educational Grants, etc) mandates (Obamacare, conscription, servitude, slavery) are not just bad ideas for long term growth, but immoral.

Touching on morality, that too centers around Property Rights. If it violates Property Rights it’s immoral. If it sustains Property Rights it’s moral. Everything else is amoral, as morals should be based on consensual activity as no other objective standard, including religious or social mores, can consistently define what and why moral activity is or isn’t.

But because of the limiting nature of Property Rights when it comes to collective action there’s more of a chance that a boy band will end up in Valhalla than a government of any longevity will keep its Mitts (or Mitt depending on the outcome of that lever pulling fiasco in November) off of Property Rights. It simply limits collective power too much, and all politicians (or at least the overwhelming majority) crave power above all else.

Blame Rousseau and the Pragmatists. Yes, no Right can be respected to any meaningful degree if a majority disregards it. Or as has been said a Right is simply what a majority says it is. Pragmatically at least.

Some time back our military thought it should officially frown upon smoking whilst in flight. So they stopped designing aircraft with cigarette lighters in them. Instead what occupied that little slot was called a “spot heater.” As you probably guessed, the “spot heater” had an uncanny resemblance to the cigarette lighter of olden days. In fact it functioned in an exactly identical manner.  Lo and behold our service men did not use it to heat Spot (dogs being cumbersome in a cockpit and all), but to light cigarettes and even cigars. But everyone called it a “spot heater.”

Similarly calling health care a Right does not make it so. It’s just a more polite name for “medical slavery.”  That is the flaw of Rousseau and the Pragmatists; they feel that by using force (a majority vote is simply authorization to use force to impose the majority’s will) and words which do not mean what they think they mean they can create Rights. But this is fallacy, and the consequences, though not immediate, are dire.

A Right can be reasoned, not as a whim of an electorate, but as a principle upon which something else depends. With Property Rights, their purpose is to enable an individual, and thereby a society, to develop in the best way possible. Take them away completely and you’ll perhaps see how I define “best way possible.”

If you did not have ownership of what you traded your labor and creativity for, if anyone or specific someones could stroll in and remove your DVD player consequence free, then who would bother designing let alone marketing an iPod? A person would put forth just enough effort to exist and a little extra, but why bust your ass when it profits someone else but not yourself?

Rousseau, Marx & Engels, Keynes – they all form a line in which Property Rights are disregarded or in some cases outright negated. The results of their philosophy are all around us.  While temporary prosperity may be argued for some tenets of their faith, overall and in the long run the consequences of their actions catch up to them, and getting spanked is inevitable.

That’s probably enough rambling and hopefully you see my points. But at this stage if you do agree with my reasoning and hold that Property Rights, as I inadequately explained them, are the most important basis of any society that deigns to be free, you’ll feel that pang that a person feels when he realizes four months later that the night he was drinking beer with the prettiest girl he ever saw he could have said one or two things differently and she’d have fallen for him instead of hooking up with that jerk who picked on you in High School cause you had better grades and less detentions than he did.

In other words I think the only thing that can turn this country around now is to have a strong reinforcement of existing Property Rights by the government (at sword point if necessary) along with an expansion of, or more correctly an acknowledgement of and respect for, what Property Rights truly are. Those odds are about as good as Thor patting Ricky Martin on the back and saying “Well met, hale fellow; we’ve awaited thee.

Cheery thoughts, aren’t they?

You know, sometimes this blogging thing is no effort at all….

Quote of the Day – Joe Huffman Edition

We had the “conversation”. Your side lied, cheated, and took unfair advantage at every opportunity. But still your side lost. Big time.

Your side lost on the safety argument and your side lost the legal argument (see the U.S. Supreme Court decisions D.C. v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago). You have no arguments left. The conversation was over years ago and all you are doing now is whining about the outcome. Go tell your problems to a therapist because the adults in this conversation aren’t interested in your delusions of relevancy.

— Joe Huffman: Been there. Done that. Let’s move on.

A Fisking

I haven’t done this in a while, but I ran across a piece in The Economist from last month that I thought I ought to respond to.  It drew (as of this reading) 1979 comments, so others apparently felt the same way.  The piece is Gun control:  Too late, and it’s a blog post by “M.S.”

Let us Fisk:

PEOPLE’S ideas often don’t make any sense when you try to hold them together in your head simultaneously, as Richard Rorty, Daniel Kahneman or Desiderius Erasmus will be happy to tell you. One of the areas in which people tend to have ideas that don’t make sense, when you hold them together in your head simultaneously, is that of rights. For example, many Americans believe that our rights derive from God or from the very nature of being human. As Paul Ryan put it in a discussion of Obamacare this month, folks of his political persuasion don’t believe that the people have the power to make up new rights; rights come from God and nature. These same Americans also generally believe that our rights are those delineated in the Declaration of Independence and the constitution, including a non-infringeable individual right to bear arms. And yet, clearly, people in most law-governed democracies other than the United States, countries like Britain, Canada, France, Israel, the Netherlands and Japan, do not have an individual right to bear arms. How, then, can the right to bear arms as enshrined in the constitution derive from God, or from the very nature of being human? Is this a special sort of right, one that can be created by the people via government if they so choose? If so, then what stops the people, through their government, from creating other sorts of new rights, like a right to education, or a right to health insurance?

Now, I find this essay interesting because I’ve spent many hours and billions of pixels discussing “What is a Right?” on this blog – several essays linked over there on the left sidebar attest to this. For me, the question is no longer “What is a Right?” but “Why don’t we teach this stuff in school?” because it’s obvious we don’t. The author of this essay asks the very question I did, but doesn’t actually bother to try answering it.


Take this essay by Cliff Stearns, the Republican congressman and (to be reductionist) gun-rights advocate. “Not only is the right to be armed a Constitutional right, it is also a fundamental natural right,” Mr Stearns writes. And then, in the very next paragraph: “Once again we can trace the right to be armed to legal and political events in 17th century English history, this time pertaining to hunting and gaming laws.” How does a fundamental natural right lie sleeping throughout the first 6,000 years of recorded history, only to wake to full flower due to conflicts over gaming laws in Regency Restoration England? And what of the benighted 95% of humanity who still do not enjoy the fruits of this natural right, including, rather confusingly, the actual English who supposedly roused it from its primeval slumber?

Yes, what of that?

It isn’t just rights we don’t teach in schools, it’s political philosophies. What “M.S.” is asking here is “Why does America recognize an individual right to arms when no other political entity does?” This is a question I believe no American ought to have to ask – it should be explained to them from childhood. But let’s continue with the piece before I start waxing philosophic:

Perhaps American supporters of gun rights would say that in fact people in every country do have a natural right to bear arms, but their enjoyment of that natural right is denied them by oppressive governments in countries like Britain, France, Canada, Israel, the Netherlands and Japan. Meanwhile, the so-called “right” to health insurance enjoyed by citizens of those countries is presumably only a fake right which they do not in fact possess. This just doesn’t seem to be a satisfactory explanation. Is the problem that we use the word “right” in two ways, meaning in one sense an inalienable moral consideration which we believe all humans possess regardless of the context of government in which they live, and in another sense an enforceable claim within a country’s legal system which commands government and other persons to guarantee certain kinds of treatment to every citizen? Which kind of right would the right to health insurance be? Which kind is the right to bear arms?

As I have discussed at length, one of those – the right to arms – is a right. The other – the “right” to “health insurance” – is not. Calling it a right does not make it one. Yes, “we use the word ‘right” in two ways” – correctly and incorrectly. If that’s not a satisfactory explanation, I submit that the problem lies not in me, but in the person unsatisfied.

Any “right” that demands that someone else provide a service, a material good, or any other thing of value is not a RIGHT. And “health insurance” or “health care” or whatever term they’re using today IS NOT A RIGHT. You can call a tail a leg, but it remains a tail.

The right to bear arms isn’t the only right that faces this paradox. They all do, really. In the mid-1980s, the idea that people have a right to have consensual sex with partners of any gender, in whatever position they like, was pronounced “facetious” by the Supreme Court; 25 years later it feels like an obvious, natural outgrowth of the Bill of Rights. If rights evolve this way through the dialectics of culture and history, just how “natural” can they be?

This is a valid point. The first question that must be answered is “Does this purported ‘Right’ demand something of another?” In the case of consensual sex between two or more adults, no it doesn’t. (It’s that “consensual” thing.) In my libertarian viewpoint, it’s none of the government’s goddamned business who inserts Tab-A into Slot-B. That “obvious, natural outgrowth” was something our Founders considered and the author of the Bill of Rights at least attempted to account for. It’s the Ninth Amendment that Robert Bork characterized as an “ink blot”:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

And the fact that there are many more rights than just those enumerated in the Bill of Rights was discussed by the Founders at length.

But the right to arms was one of the enumerated rights, and the United States of America is unique in putting that right into its foundational legal document.

Such are the idle thoughts that occur in the aftermath of America’s latest episode of horrifying, meaningless mass slaughter. At least, such are the idle thoughts that occur to me. A large segment of the American public these days apparently finds it offensive, not just misguided but actually offensive, to talk about gun control after these sorts of atrocities occur. As economist Justin Wolfers tweeted this morning: “Let’s not talk about gun control. It’s too early, right? It’s always too early. Except when it’s too late.”

Mr Wolfers is right: the “too early” construction is ridiculous. He’s also right that it’s too late. It is too late for gun control in America. It’s never going to happen. There are too many guns out there, and an individual right to bear arms is now entrenched in constitutional law.

He says that like it’s a bad thing.

Gun control in America is as quaint a proposition, at this point, as marijuana prohibition, with two important differences: first, that the government is still for some reason pursuing the absurd project of marijuana prohibition; and second, that guns are actually a significant threat to public health.

Now this I find fascinating. “M.S.” acknowledges that marijuana prohibition is “absurd,” but does not acknowledge that “gun control” is similarly absurd – unless you take “there are too many guns out there” as such acknowledgement. I don’t think it is, because the entire gist of his essay is in favor of “gun control.”  Guns are not a “significant threat to public health, the misuse of them is.  But strangely no one seems interested in looking at the people who are misusing them.  It’s always easier to blame the gun.

In this sense, gun control is on a long list of things that could have saved many people’s lives and made the world a better place, but for which it is now probably too late: a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, EU action to avert economic catastrophe, stopping global warming.

EXCELLENT comparisons!  And a magnificent illustration of the mindset of the author.  A “two-state solution” is a freaking pipe-dream. The “Palestinians” are apparently never going to love their children more than they hate Israel. The EU is constitutionally (no pun intended) incapable of behaving with fiscal rationality, and apparently neither are we because somewhere along the line a great number of people became convinced that things like “health insurance” were RIGHTS, and not commodities that had to be paid for. And “global warming” hasn’t happened for about 12 years – with no change in any government policy anywhere – but because that doesn’t fit the models, reality must be in error.  That excerpt from the “long list of things that could have saved many people’s lives” is four things that won’t WORK.

“Gun control” fails everywhere it’s tried, but the philosophy cannot be wrong! Do it again only HARDER!

So this is just what one of America’s many faces is going to be: a bitterly divided, hatefully cynical country where insane people have easy access to semi-automatic weapons, and occasionally use them to commit senseless atrocities. We will continue to see more and more of this sort of thing, and there’s nothing we can realistically do about it.

I will close this post with the words of the father of Christina Taylor-Green, the nine year-old killed in the January shooting here in Tucson that claimed her and five other people, leaving another thirteen wounded:

This shouldn’t happen in this country, or anywhere else, but in a free society we’re going to be subject to people like this. I prefer this to the alternative.

So do I.

“M.S.” is right, we’re bitterly divided, but gun control is only one of the points on which the various sides differ, and we know what the gun control side wants.

Well, it’s Descriptive…

Changes considered for firearms bureau

A name and focus change may be in store for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the bureau’s acting director said.

Jones confirmed ATF is also considering changing its name to the Violent Crime Bureau.

I’m surprised they’d want to hang that moniker on themselves, given the kitten-stomping, child-burning, armed robbery and vandalism, illegal weapons trafficking, etc. But hey, who am I to complain about truth in advertising?

But England Doesn’t HAVE Gun Shows!

Where do their criminals get hand grenades?

Caught on camera: Moment grenade is hurled at a house shortly after man was gunned down in similar gangland hit

A video showing the horrific moment two men launch a grenade at a house shortly after a similar attack killed a grieving father has been released by police.

It shows two men approach the house in the middle of the morning before they pull the pin out of the grenade and throw it at the property.

The pair then run off but the effects of the blast can clearly be seen on the video as smoke and dust billows around the front of the building.

The grenade attack seen in the video took place outside a house on Luke Road in Droylsden, Manchester. (AKA: “Gunchester” – Ed.) No body was injured during this incident.

However, ten minutes earlier, the body of 46-year-old David Short was found at a house on Folkestone Road East in Clayton after police were called there following reports of gunshots.

There had also been an explosion at the address, which was caused by a grenade. It took place after his son Mark, 23, was shot dead as a gunman opened fire in a pub in the city in May. His father had previously branded his son’s murderers ‘cowards’.

Ah yes, gun-free Britain, that Utopia that the Brady Campaign fights so hard to bring to our shores.

h/t to Phil B., who has left the shores of Britain and settled in New Zealand where they’re at least a little saner. And Phil reminds us that hand grenades are illegal for private citizens to possess in the UK. I guess no one told those nice boys who were playing with them.