Today I have been thinking back over the many changes that I’ve seen in the personal-defense community during my active years. The biggest change during those years are the number of states that now issue handgun permits to citizens and, even better, those states that now have permitless carry. Of course, today’s selection of guns, gear and ammo are really impressive. And, it is certainly encouraging to see the number of people who understand the value of obtaining professional defensive training. But, I think the biggest change is the way today’s shooters value and preach gun safety.
Back when I first started shooting, you’d hear a lot of talk about someone having, or someone else trying to avoid, an accidental discharge. Well, friends, let me tell you… an accidental discharge is when lightning strikes your firearm in such a way as to cause it to fire. Just about anything else is a negligent discharge.
Any unintentional discharge of a firearm can usually be traced to negligence on some individual’s part. Not knowing the proper manual of arms for a certain gun. Not focusing on safety while handling it. Using the wrong ammunition. Failing to properly maintain a particular firearm. Leaving a firearm laying around where some unauthorized person might pick it up. And you can think of other examples of negligence that could lead to a discharge that often results in injury or death. Using the term “accident” sort of implies that it was really nobody’s fault, while “negligent” puts it right back on somebody who should have been more responsible.
My point is that I think the average shooter has become better educated in recognizing the need for gun safety and preaching it. I like to post vintage photos on the internet of old-time lawmen and shootists. Often those photos depict gun handling that we no longer consider safe practices. Fingers on the trigger, muzzles pointed in unsafe directions, old-timers leaning on their rifles with the gun muzzles in the dirt, are just some of the things that we see. What I appreciate is the number of folks who take the time to comment and call attention to what they perceive to be unsafe practices. In so doing, it often causes a gun-safety discussion and it certainly serves as a reminder to all of us. And, nowadays, if someone uses the term “accidental discharge” he is nearly always strongly and loudly reminded that it is a “negligent discharge.” New shooters learn through these exchanges and we older shooters are reminded of the safety rules that we already know.
Just as a reminder, here are the safety rules that I use, courtesy of Col. Jeff Cooper’s Gunsite Academy.
#1… ALL GUNS ARE ALWAYS LOADED
#2… NEVER LET YOUR GUN MUZZLE COVER ANYTHING THAT YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO DESTROY.
#3… KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER UNTIL YOUR SIGHTS ARE ON THE TARGET.
David Niven was an esteemed English actor and novelist. During the course of his long and storied acting career, Niven played a leading man, a world explorer, the villain in a Pink Panther movie, a soldier, a sailor, an action hero, and even James Bond in the first Casino Royale. He won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1958 for his role as Major Pollock in Separate Tables.
Today’s crop of actors is, with few exceptions, a bunch of vapid amoral losers. Their standard of accomplishment is running about naked and flying on private jets to A-lister conferences while telling the rest of us what we should be sacrificing to battle climate change. By contrast, David Niven was a real-live warrior.
Born March 1, 1910, at Belgrave mansions, Grosvenor Gardens, London, Niven came from a long line of British soldiers. His father LT William Niven was killed in Turkey during the Gallipoli Campaign serving with the Berkshire Yeomanry in 1915. His maternal grandfather, CPT William Degacher, was killed in 1879 at the Battle of Isandlwana during the Zulu Wars. His great grandfather was LTG James Webber Smith CB.
Two years after the death of his father, Niven’s mother remarried, this time to a prominent British Conservative politician. At age six, young David was remanded to boarding school. His experience there was rocky, predominantly the result of his proclivity toward pranks.
At age 18, Niven impregnated a fifteen-year-old socialite named Margaret Whigham while she was on holiday. Given the puritanical mores of the day this held the potential for great scandal. The young woman’s family arranged for an abortion, but she revered Niven until his death. Whigham was among the VIP guests at his memorial service in London after he died.
David Niven was educated at the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, graduating in 1930 as a Second Lieutenant in the British Army. This experience was said to be foundational to his developing the refined unflappable bearing that held him in good stead on the stage and screen. However, the peacetime Army did little to hold Niven’s attention.
LT Niven once ditched a lecture on machinegun tactics delivered by a British Major General in favor of a social engagement with a young woman. Niven was subsequently arrested for insubordination but killed a bottle of whisky with Rhoddy Rose, the officer tasked with guarding him. Rose later went on to become a decorated Colonel in the British Army. With Rose’s assistance, Niven escaped out a window and caught a ship for America, resigning his commission via telegram once underway. Upon his arrival in the United States he tried and failed to make a living first selling whisky and then as a rodeo promoter.
After stints in both Mexico and the Caribbean, Niven eventually made his way to Hollywood, securing a role as an extra in such films as Barbary Coast and Mutiny on the Bounty. His designation as an extra was, “Anglo-Saxon Type No. 2,008.” More serious roles followed until, by the late 1930’s, he had become an A-lister leading man. Niven and Errol Flynn shared a house for a time. By 1939 David Niven was on top of his game, having earned top billing for big budget Hollywood productions. Then Hitler invaded Western Europe, and Niven gave it all up to return to England and rejoin the British Army. At the time, David Niven was the only British movie star working in America to do so.
The Humble Warrior
I watched a couple of interviews with David Niven on YouTube in preparation for this project. Despite his refined, almost haughty British demeanor, you cannot help but be struck by the man’s humility when he was elaborating on his military experience. Once during an interview with Dick Cavett he was asked to relate the most perilous experience he had while serving in World War 2. He prefaced his answer that many other men had done much greater things than had he and that he was likely the most terrified man in Europe during the war. However, cutting through the fluff, David Niven was the real freaking deal.
After being recommissioned as a Lieutenant, Niven was assigned to the motor training battalion of the Prince Consort’s Own Rifle Brigade. The British have some of the most adorable unit designations. Dissatisfied with the pace of that assignment, he volunteered for the Commandos. Niven trained at Inverailort House in the Western Highlands, eventually coming to command “A” Squadron of the General Headquarters Liaison Regiment.
The British Commandos during World War 2 were an elite light infantry unit specializing in small unit operations. A modern counterpart might be the US Army Rangers. Their training was notoriously grueling, and they were relied upon to execute the toughest missions, often with minimal support. Commando training and operational experience laid the foundation for much of the world’s modern Special Operations capabilities.
Niven was an acting Lieutenant Colonel by the time he landed on the continent several days after D-Day. He served with a unit called “Phantom” that was tasked with covertly locating and reporting enemy positions in the chaos following Operation Overlord. One of the few war stories that he was willing to relate publicly concerned his being shelled while attempting to cross a bridge between the American 1st and British 2d Armies.
LTC Niven Earns the Iron Cross
LTC Niven was crossing a bridge just as the Germans began dropping artillery on it. He dove out of his jeep and into a nearby foxhole with heavy German artillery fire impacting all around. Amidst the unfettered chaos of the moment he looked up to see John McClain, an old friend and drama critic, hunkered down the next foxhole over.
The Germans obliterated the bridge, but Niven and McClain emerged unscathed. McClain was uniformed as a Lieutenant in the US Navy. After a happy reunion McClain produced a sack filled with German Iron Crosses. The German forces at Cherbourg were cut off and surrounded. Their commander, Generalleutnant von Schlieben, had requested a sackful of Iron Crosses be air dropped into the salient to be distributed to his men in an effort at shoring up their morale. The Luftwaffe attempted to drop the sack from a fighter plane but inadvertently deposited it in McClain’s hole.
These men were in show business, after all, and were ever on the lookout for an opportunity at levity. Niven’s friend formally presented him with a German Iron Cross for bravery right there in their foxhole. Niven said that he affixed the decoration to his shirt underneath his combat jacket and wore it for the rest of the war.
Though Niven was tight-lipped concerning the details of his wartime service, it was undeniably extensive. He was evacuated as part of the British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk. When once he was preparing his men for an assault he attempted to allay their jitters with,”Look, you chaps only have to do this once. But I’ll have to do it all over again in Hollywood with Errol Flynn!”
During the Battle of the Bulge, Niven was challenged by a nervous American sentry jumpy over stories of Otto Skorzeny’s commandos infiltrating Allied lines in American uniforms. The trigger-happy American asked him who had won the World Series in 1943. Niven responded with, “Haven’t the foggiest idea, but I did co-star with Ginger Rogers in Bachelor Mother.” The sentry let him pass.
Many Hollywood actors had actively avoided combat. When pressed about his wartime service, Niven said this, “Anyone who says a bullet sings past, hums past, flies, pings, or whines past, has never heard one – they go crack!”
Niven ended the war a Lieutenant Colonel and returned to Hollywood. Among his several decorations was the American Legion of Merit. Like most combat veterans of that era, Niven seemed ready to put the war behind him and move on with his life.
The Rest of the Story
Soon after his return to Hollywood, the Niven family was enjoying an evening as guests of Tyrone Power. While playing Sardines, a lights-out version of hide and seek with the accumulated kids, Niven’s wife Primmie took a tumble down some stairs, fractured her skull, and was tragically killed. The distraught man immersed himself in his work to compensate. Prominent roles alongside the likes of Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, and Shirley Temple followed.
David Niven’s career waxed and waned as is often the custom for movie stars. He played on Broadway opposite Gloria Swanson in Nina as a respite from movies. His fortunes lagged for a time until he was cast as Phileas Fogg in the smash 1956 hit Around the World in 80 Days. Around the World took home Best Picture that year.
David Niven holds the distinction of being the only person ever to win a Best Actor award at a ceremony he was hosting. Appearing on-screen for only 23 minutes in Separate Tables, his performance was also the briefest ever to be afforded this honor. Niven’s Oscar proved to be the key that opened all the doors in Hollywood.
Niven shined in movies like The Guns of Navarone, Death on the Nile, Rough Cut, and Seawolves. While hosting the 46th Academy Awards ceremony in 1974, Niven was interrupted when a naked man went streaking past in the background. Streaking was considered quite the popular pastime in the early 1970’s. His classic off-the-cuff response was, “Isn’t it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?” David Niven was ever the refined English gentleman.
This quote lends insight to this remarkable man’s worldview, “I will, however, tell you just one thing about the war, my first story and my last. I was asked by some American friends to search out the grave of their son near Bastogne. I found it where they told me I would, but it was among 27,000 others, and I told myself that here, Niven, were 27,000 reasons why you should keep your mouth shut after the war.” What a stud.
David Niven died in 1983 at the age of 73 from complications of Lou Gehrig’s disease. The archetypal English gentleman on the silver screen, Niven was also quite the British patriot when it counted.
Elon Musk’s House : An inside look at all the houses owned by Elon Musk
In May, Elon Musk, the billionaire Tesla and SpaceX CEO tweeted that he would be “selling almost all physical possessions. Will own no house.” A few days later, he listed four stunning mansions in Los Angeles for sale for a total of $137 million. Elon Musk’s House portfolio holds Gene Wilder’s former home, a $30 million mansion in Los Angeles, and a historic 100-year-old mansion on the San Francisco Peninsula. In this article, we take a look at the breathtaking houses owned by the world’s first billionaire renter.
At one point, Musk owned several properties across the greater Los Angeles area collectively worth over a whopping $70 million. Musk purchased his first piece of Bel-Air real estate in late 2012. He started by renting the same house in 2010; he lived there with his family. He later bought the mansion for $17 million. This Elon Musk house has 20,248 sprawls over square feet with a total of seven bedrooms and thirteen baths. The kitchen features a beautiful brick ceiling. The backyard has a beautiful pool, a spacious tennis court, and a picturesque view of the exclusive Bel-Air Country Club. The home also houses a gym and a wine cellar. This 20,248-square-foot property was the beginning of it all, the first and the largest of his Bel Air estates to go after Musk had tweeted about his goal to the world, the property had been up for sale with an asking price of $30 million and had sold for $29.72 million to William Ding, a Chinese billionaire The sum is reportedly about $5.5 million more than what the Tesla CEO paid when buying it in 2016.
This stunning Elon Musk’s house was located a little away from his mansion for $6.75 million in October 2013. Yes, Elon Musk owned the house of the late actor Gene Wilders, which he had purchased to “preserve the spirit of Gene Wilder”. Beloved actor Gene Wilder lived there for over 30 years until 2007. In a 2015 interview with Vogue, the billionaire CEO described it as “like a little schoolhouse on the prairie, except in Bel-Air on a golf course.” Though Musk never lived in the house, he had used it as a private school—named AdAstra—for his children and children of some of the SpaceX and Tesla employees. While selling the house, the Tesla CEO made it clear that the buyer must not harm the house’s “soul” or tear it down. “Just one stipulation on sale: I own Gene Wilder’s old house. It cannot be torn down or lose any of its soul.” Musk tweeted. Soon, it was revealed that he had sold the Wilder estate to Elizabeth Hunter, the wife of Wilder’s nephew Jordan Walker-Perlman, for $7 million in an off-market deal. It was also reported that the tech mogul lent as much as $6.7 million to help them buy the property too.
This boomerang-shaped Elon Musk’s house in Brentwood, California, about 15 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles was previously owned by Elon Musk. Musk paid just under $3.7 million for it in 2014, per the Variety-owned real-estate site Dirt. The building is surrounded by privacy hedges for security but has floor-to-ceiling giant windows throughout to let the daylight in. Musk sold the home for $4 million in late August 2019, stated a Business Insider report. Way before he publicly declared his intentions, Musk had already sold a 0.28-acre modern house in Brentwood, only about 20 minutes away from his six former Chalon-Somera properties. He sold it in August 2019 for $3.9 million, the property had reportedly cost the Tesla CEO about $3.7 million in 2014.
The billionaire techie purchased another Bel-Air mansion while it was still under construction for $24.25 million in 2016, Variety reported that year. Notably, Musk doesn’t own a home near the Tesla factory in Fremont, California. He has previously shared that he slept on a couch or the floor of a conference room during busy production periods.
In a Zillow listing, the four of Musk’s remaining properties in Bel Air had a combined asking price of $62.5 million and an interesting description to go with: “A project for the big thinker, designed to showcase one of the best views in Los Angeles – from the city to the ocean and beyond.” The properties, all unique in architecture and their worth ranging between $4 million to $30 million, made him a profit of about $6.8 million.
Now, after almost a year of emptying his material baggage, it has all come down to one gigantic 100-year-old mansion near San Jose. The Hillsborough estate is built on 47 acres of land, with 9 bedrooms, 9.5 baths, and just about anything you could dream of including hiking trails, canyons, a big ballroom, and a reservoir! Originally listed for $35 million in May 2020, it seems Musk has taken down the listing for now. However, according to reports, there is every possibility that the home will be relisted and Musk will complete his quest to get rid of all his real estate assets.
Americans have long been concerned about government surveillance, and rightly so. Being watched by the government is incredibly disconcerting, especially when government agents are probing into your private life.
The rise of drone technology has not helped on this front. Whereas before a government would need a plane or helicopter to get aerial views of you or your property, now they just need a small remote-controlled device.
The issue of governments spying on Americans using drones has come up in some recent court cases and legislative disputes. One recent case involves Todd and Heather Maxon who live on a rural five-acre property in Long Lake Township, Michigan. Todd likes to fix up cars, and he keeps a number of vehicles on his property.
For years the Township has been going after the couple for zoning violations, accusing them of illegally storing “junk” on their property. But here’s the kicker. The cars can’t even be seen from outside the property…that is, unless you fly a drone overhead. And that’s exactly what the Township did.
Without even attempting to get a warrant, the Township hired a contractor to fly a drone as low as 150 feet over the Maxons’ property multiple times over two years. The Township is now trying to use the pictures taken by the drone as evidence that the Maxons are violating a local zoning ordinance.
“If the government wants to conduct intrusive surveillance like this, the Fourth Amendment requires that it get a warrant,” said Institute for Justice Attorney Mike Greenberg regarding the case. “The zoning authority’s failure to even try to get one shows their indifference to Michiganders’ constitutional rights.”
New York City has also come in the crosshairs in recent years for its decisions on this front. In 2019, the New York Police Department acquired 14 drones for “monitoring giant crowds, investigating hazardous waste spills, handling hostage situations and reaching remote areas in crime scenes, among other tasks.” Though the NYPD insists the drones won’t be used for warrantless surveillance, many are worried that putting this technology in the hands of police is just asking for trouble.
Citing these fears, privacy advocates pushed for legislation known as the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology Act (“POST Act”), which requires the NYPD to release information about how surveillance tools are being used and creates an annual oversight system to audit compliance with department policies. The Act was passed in June 2020 after gaining momentum following the death of George Floyd.
The Legal Issue
The legal issue with warrantless government surveillance revolves around the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution, which states the following:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
In plain language, governments aren’t allowed to conduct searches and seizures as they please. They need to get a warrant.
In the more than two centuries that have passed since this amendment was adopted in 1791, mountains of case law have built up establishing precedents for what exactly constitutes “unreasonable” and what qualifies as a “search” or “seizure.” Other related questions have also been extensively litigated, such as whether evidence collected in an unconstitutional search (such as pictures from a warrantless drone flight) can be used in court. On that issue, there is a long-standing precedent. “For more than a century, the remedy for a Fourth Amendment violation has been suppression of unlawfully obtained evidence,” the Institute for Justice notes.
Whether the Maxons win their case remains to be seen.
What’s clear, however, is that drone technology provides governments with unprecedented spying capabilities—capabilities they would gladly use against Americans if they could get away with it.
The Philosophical Issue
For many topics addressed in the Bill of Rights libertarians are firmly in favor of the right being recognized (for example, freedom of speech and gun rights). With the Fourth Amendment, however, there are some philosophical problems.
The economist and political philosopher Walter Block addresses the “right” to privacy in the Peeping Tom chapter of his book Defending the Undefendable 2. “According to the libertarian legal code,” Block writes, “we may do anything at all to each other, whether they like it or not, provided, only, that in so doing we not violate—not their privacy ‘rights’ which do not exist, but rather—their property rights in their own persons and justly owned physical possessions.”
As Block correctly points out, spying on people isn’t technically a rights violation from a libertarian perspective. Indeed, a “right” to privacy, consistently recognized, would lead to all sorts of absurd laws, such as banning detectives or prohibiting most journalism and gossip.
Should we let governments spy on us at will, then, and never push back through legal channels? Of course not. There is a sound philosophical case to be made against government surveillance—it just doesn’t rest on a supposed “right” to privacy.
The most fundamental point to be made in this regard from a libertarian framework is that government surveillance is funded by taxpayer dollars, which are taken coercively. This alone makes the practice immoral in the libertarian view.
It’s also worth pointing out that the purpose of government surveillance isn’t necessarily protecting people. Sometimes the government uses drones because it intends to force its laws on people (such as in the case of the Maxons and Long Lake Township’s zoning laws) in which case the government is using surveillance as a means to a liberty-violating end.
In such cases, libertarians will often make a tactical move. While we may disagree with the Fourth Amendment philosophically, holding the State to its stated laws on privacy is often a more effective way of defending people’s liberties (property rights) than appealing to philosophical ideals. Just saying “it’s their property, they have a right to use it as they please” may be a more philosophically sound rebuttal to zoning laws, but it’s not particularly effective in court.
If appealing to the Fourth Amendment is what will convince the powers that be to respect property rights, there’s nothing wrong with that. We just need to recognize that, for libertarians, such an appeal is merely a practical tactic—the philosophical argument against the government’s actions is rather different from the legal argument.
Privacy in Libertopia
So that’s the argument against government drones, but what about private drones? Would libertopia have private drones flying everywhere, snooping on people constantly, seeing as libertarians don’t recognize a right to privacy? Of course not. Privacy is in high demand, so drones would almost certainly be regulated with voluntary contracts.
Responding to the Fourth Amendment at the end of his Peeping Tom chapter, Block summarizes the libertarian position on privacy as follows: “We have no such right. It is merely a privilege, one that, fortunately, the free market system can bestow upon us.”
Patrick Carroll has a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Waterloo and is an Editorial Fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education.
Robert “Jock” McLaren (center) was one hard-core veterinarian. Australian War Memorial photo.
As a species, we are enthralled with seeing people explore their limits. Sometimes it is in the small things. “Would you rather do this by mouth or take a shot?” I will not infrequently query at work.
Some folks will ask for a shot because they are in a hurry or want to get better faster. Others are not in such a rush and make a reasoned decision to take it slower. Then, there are the beefy 21-year-old college guys who get a little weepy and ask if they can call their moms and talk about it. That’s frankly just pathetic.
Many times when discussing hard medical things to come, I have had patients say, “Oh, I could never do that.” I beg to differ. Oftentimes folks just need to be properly incentivized.
It is amazing what the human animal is capable of if there is simply no alternative. Friday runs at Airborne school, 61 days of institutionalized pain and deprivation during the Ranger course, and the horrors of Hell Week during BUD/S that produces baby Navy SEALs are all designed to explore and define a person’s limits. Each institution is carefully crafted to motivate people to quit. Most commonly, a person’s limitations are defined by their circumstances.
In jump school, it is silly stuff like a funny hat and a shiny pin to put on your uniform. However, if there is a threat to a child, then suddenly, that petite 117-pound mom becomes the tactical equivalent of a raging grizzly bear. As the timeless axiom goes, it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it is rather the size of the fight in the dog. It really does all come down to motivation.
Jock McLaren (left) is shown here in 1945 touring his old POW camp.
The vermiform appendix is a most curious organ. Vermiform means “worm-like.” The appendix is a finger-like blind pouch that sprouts off of the cecum at the junction between the small and large intestines. For ages, we thought the appendix was just an afterthought, something that God inadvertently left in there while He was distracted by something else. In recent years we have come to appreciate that the appendix likely serves as a beneficial reservoir for good gut bacteria. It seems God actually never gets distracted.
The problem is that the appendix is bad to get clogged up and infected. Appendicitis is one of the most common indicators of emergency surgery. In 2015, there were 11.6 million cases of appendicitis and 50,100 deaths worldwide. If your appendix gets ripe, that thing has to come out. Now hold that thought.
Surgical procedures are tough enough with the proper tools under controlled
circumstances. Jock McLaren had to make do with slightly less.
The Manliest Man in the World
Born in Scotland, Robert Kerr “Jock” McLaren served as a grunt in Europe during World War I. After the war, Jock immigrated to Queensland, Australia, studied to become a veterinarian, and settled down to make a life for himself. When Australia was dragged into World War II, Dr. McLaren volunteered to go off and do his bit yet again.
During one engagement with the Japanese in 1942, Jock McLaren was captured and remanded to the hellish Changi POW camp in Singapore. The Japanese viewed captured soldiers with particular disdain and typically tried to work and starve them to death. McLaren escaped in short order and, upon his recapture, was transported to another ghastlier camp in Borneo.
Jock escaped yet again along with a Chinese comrade named Johnny Funk and trekked 270 miles across the Pacific, hopping from island to island in a hollowed-out log. Once they arrived on the island of Mindanao, they realized that the Philippines had fallen to the Japanese … and that Jock McLaren had developed appendicitis. With the Japanese actively hunting for them, Jock now had a hard decision to make.
Equipped solely with a razor blade, two spoons, and a hand mirror, Jock McLaren removed his own appendix. He sort of sterilized his equipment by boiling water in a rice pot over a campfire. The operation took four and a half hours without anesthetic. He closed the wound with plant fibers harvested from the surrounding jungle. Two days later, he was on his feet and evading the Japanese yet again. Soon thereafter, McLaren was fighting alongside Philippine guerillas.
Jock McLaren commandeered an antiquated 26-foot whaling boat he christened The Bastard, festooned it with pilfered mortars and machine guns, and used the vessel to terrorize occupying Japanese troops. Despite a hefty bounty on his head, McLaren survived the war. Of his surgical ordeal in the jungle, he later opined, “It was hell, but I came through all right.” I suppose it really all comes down to your motivation.