John Galt Is Everywhere and His Killing Spree Continues

On Thursday, I wrote about the central role that absolute free market libertarianism, as personified by the fictional John Galt, played in the horrific explosion in West, Texas that took the lives of fourteen people, most of whom were volunteer firefighters fighting a fire at an unregulated fertilizer facility. We have now learned that the facility had a checkered history of ignoring regulations and had 1350 times more ammonium nitrate on hand than the amount that triggers a legal requirement to report the facility to Department of Homeland Security. Of course, the facility’s owner chose to ignore that regulation along with the many other regulations he chose to ignore. Sadly, some press accounts of the owner chose to focus more on his role as a church elder (Update: he was even at Bible study when the fire broke out!) than on how his choice to flout regulations and good sense led directly to this tragedy. Whatever the cause of the original fire that eventually triggered the explosion, the plant owner’s decision to maintain such a large and unreported amount of highly explosive ammonium nitrate so close to so many people played a huge role in how this tragedy played out.

Those deaths, and their roots in blatant disregard for government regulation in the belief that it harms business, are sadly just a small part of the larger picture of how free marketeers have corrupted the public marketplace of ideas to sow widespread death and destruction so that the “job creators” can go about their usual business of pocketing massive profits while refusing to make microscopic investments in small steps that would save many lives.

Remember the other, larger Massachusetts tragedy that killed at least 50 and injured 722? No?  It was discovered last fall that New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Massachusetts had been flaunting the rules on drug manufacturing and in their haste to reap maximum profits shipped out vials of steroids contaminated with fungus. Thousands of patients around the country were injected with contaminated material and deaths and injuries followed.

You would think that since this tragedy played out last fall, the government would have realized the error of letting companies call themselves compounders when they are in reality manufacturing drugs on a large scale. Drug manufacturers are subject rigid FDA standards while compounders are regulated as if they are simple neighborhood pharmacies where the druggist might mix single vials of drugs into a form a local doctor has requested for individualized treatment of a patient. But no, because of massive lobbying on the part of compounders, who have become a huge presence because of the vast sums of money they can earn by working the margins of regulation, lawmakers pocket the proceeds of the lobbying and proclaim themselves powerless to harm the job creators as they bring these products to market. It should be viewed as no surprise then, that a different compounder, this time in Florida, now is recalling all of its products because it has been found to have been shipping product that was contaminated with bacteria. It is not yet known if any patients have been harmed by products from this compounder, but at least today’s article on the recall was able to update the death toll from the Massachusetts compounder to 53.

The Boston Marathon bombing and the subsequent search for the perpetrators also was touched by John Galt. Technology has existed for nearly 20 years that can make individual production lots of explosives traceable. But when it came time to implement the technology, the NRA and other gun enthusiasts managed to limit the inclusion of taggants to plastic explosives and to specifically exempt black powder (otherwise known as gunpowder) from being required to be traceable. The Boston bombs used black powder. If investigators had been able to know within hours of the blast where and when the black powder was purchased, would they have been able to arrest the bombers sooner and without the subsequent death of one police officer and near death of another? The full shutdown of Boston on Friday would not have happened if the brothers had been arrested Wednesday or Thursday through tracing the black powder they purchased. But no, John Galt said that gunpowder manufacturers shouldn’t have to spend the extra pennies to tag production lots and the inclusion of taggants in gunpowder infringes the rights of gun owners in a de facto registration of their ammunition, so society has to suffer the consequences of this freedom.

Oh and all that gun freedom. It appears that we have five more gun freedom victims in Seattle today.

John Galt is a very busy guy, sowing death and destruction from one side of the country to the other. But since he continues to make good money, we have to give him his freedom and keep those markets wide open. Praise the lord of the free market and pass the untagged ammunition.

24 replies
  1. bg says:

    Thank you, Jim, and also ew for recent posts. We have lost our minds along with our freedoms. Why does our government hate us?

  2. El Cid says:

    It’s important to recall that while the Randian Galt character might well symbolize this absurd corporatist fetishism, such ideas were fully formed long before this minor ‘thinker’ Rand created such characters.

    The National Association of Manufacturers was a real organization and in the early 20th Century used the same arguments to avoid industry regulation and to push through policies and ideologies of wild industrial abandon.

    Let’s not give these crappy writers *too* much credit; all they did was wrap bad fiction around already-existing ultra-capitalist tropes.

  3. Jim White says:

    @El Cid: True. But the use of Galt is a colorful shorthand that I use to punch up headlines and to tweak those who worship at the altar of free enterprise.

    And I already have one Twitter response to me saying that it’s not libertarian to ignore regulations. These free marketeers get a bit touchy when the chaos they create comes home to roost.

  4. Duncan says:

    Yes — that’s “flout regulations,” not “flaunt regulations.” The latter would mean “Watch me wave my regulations around!”

  5. scribe says:

    Jim – what is the sourcing you refer to in claiming the presure cooker bombs used black powder? All the reports I’ve seen said smokeless powder.

    More to the point, these two Boston knuckleheads violated some of the most stringent gun control laws in the country in more ways than can be counted. To wit:

    1. They had none of the permits required by the Commonwealth for the purchase, possession or use of firearms. In Massachusetts, purchase, possession or use of a firearm without that permit is a felony. I am told by reliable sources that the penalty for that felony is up to 10 years’ incarceration and up to $10,000 fine.
    2. They had none of the permits required by the Commonwealth for the purchase, possession or use of ammunition components. This is a real zinger: ammunition components are treated the same as are firearms for the permit and punishment purposes. As I understand their laws (and I am not a Mass. lawyer), that means possession of an empty shotgun shell – a hunk of metal and plastic – or powder, smokeless or black, components being “something from which ammunition can be made” exposes that person to the same punishments. As would purchase of same (and bringing it into the Commonwealth, if they bought it out of state).
    3. It appears they had so-called high-capacity magazines. If (as I’ll bet is quite likely – these were young knuckleheads who don’t seem to have much care about legal niceties) those magazines were manufactured after 9/13/94, the date the old, expired federal “assault weapons ban” went into effect, possession of such in the Commonwealth is another felony, open to the same penalties.
    4. The older, deader brother of these two apparently had a criminal history of dometic violence. Under both federal and Commonwealth law, he was prohibited from possessing, buying or using a firearm. Under federal law that’s a lifetime ban, even if the DV matter was resolved as a misdemeanor. Even if it was just a restraining order, i.e., a civil injunction, that would deprive him of the right to purchase or possess a firearm under both federal and state law, and expose him to felony penalties (as well as the person who sold/gave/transferred the gun to him).
    5. The younger brother, under 21, would have been prohibited under both federal and Commonwealth law from possessing a handgun when not being supervised by a person over 21 who had the legal right to possess one, i.e., was not his DV-history brother.
    6. Their town, Cambridge, has a reputation for being exceptionally difficult when it comes to issuing gun permits. It seems they just blew off the law.
    7. Boston has even more stringent local prohibitions on what may and may not be possessed, owned or purchased.

    And I haven’t even gotten to the “loaded gun in a car”, “destructive devices” and “weapons of mass destruction” angles – all of which would put the living brother in prison for the rest of his natural life on their own.

    There’s more, but you get the drift. If you want to see the kind of gyrations people in Massachusetts get to go through if they want to comply with those laws, go read some of the threads here and, more generally, here .

    Now, step back and ask yourself whether you’d be willing to put up with any restrictions on your right to, say, post on a blog. Or exercise any of your free speech rights. The Bill of Rights is, and should be treated as, an integrated document protecting people against their government’s excesses as a unified shield and not a collection of individual, fractured, narrow rights – a net with lots of holes, so to speak. As I discussed at greater length here, when one starts picking out rights we like from rights we don’t like and denigrating the rights we don’t like, we wind up eliminating the ones we like, too. So, you saw in Boston effective martial law and house arrest (and bumbling cops missing the guy and where he hid until they let the people out of house arrest).

    If you want an index of where the justices of the Supreme Court stand, consider how the Chief Justice feels about prior restraint. Hint: he likes it when the story’s about him. Viz.: EW and I have been going back and forth in the background on this, but there’s little doubt the college was enforcing the Chief Justice’s wishes about controlling press coverage.

    You and the majority of the commenters here, quite rightly, raise issues and complain when, for example, some congresscritter demands that this defendant or that be treated as an enemy combatant or that people at Gitmo get something approaching a real, fair trial instead of a slow-motion drumhead lynching. Yet when it comes to other liberties, meh.

    People here and elsewhere were all pretty up in arms when one of Rahm’s Chicago cops was going after a media member videoing, telling him “your Constitutional rights are suspended” or words to that effect. Yet a lot of those same people were/are all in behind Rahm when he goes on a pro-gun-control tangent, even though the right to keep and bear arms is just as “fundamental” (in the legal sense and as held by the Supreme Court) as those First Amendment rights. Be consistent – come out to shred the Constitution or protect it as a whole, but don’t put yourself in the position of trying to preserve part and shred others. That position is, by default, to shred it.

    The sad, tragic facts are that people die every day, and that people have been violent and using whatever comes to hand to effect that violence since people were invented. And the violence will not end until mens’ hearts change. Given the bloodlust expressed by pols, Democratic and Republican, in the wake of these events and the lynch-mob mentality the pols have been fostering in and out of the media, I don’t see that changing any time soon.

  6. Jim White says:

    @scribe: On the type of powder, I had thought that the article I linked said that, but on second reading I see the NRA types blocked taggants in both types of powder so it doesn’t really matter much which type they used, only that they used this weaker type of explosive than plastics and thereby avoided taggants.

    As for the rest of your rant, I’m just not buying it. The same agitators for “freedoms” regarding the sacred second amendment have so perverted the atmosphere in this country that even when good regulations get put onto the books as you described for Massachusetts, evading those regulations is so easy that even young knuckleheads can do it with ease. The bottom line is that gun nuts in this country have actively enabled criminals like these knuckleheads all just so they can masturbate to the latest hot chicks with automatic weapons pinups.

    A civil society decides on rules that govern it and those rules evolve over time. Regular citizens owning weapons designed solely for use in war is social suicide and the horrendous death rates we have from those weapons and even from the simplest guns being owned by idiots who have no clue how to handle them cause far too much death and destruction in our society.

    If we aren’t going to have significant regulation, why can’t we at least have accountability? How about everyone who buys a gun has to buy liability insurance to go along with it, just like you have to do for a car?

    Oh, and comparing making mass murder freely available to the Boston knuckleheads to limiting my blog posts is not even worthy of a response. No comparison here.

  7. scribe says:

    @Jim White: Well, I’m right and you’re wrong and that’s all there is to it. You know it, I know it, and everyone knows it. No amount of reflexive name-calling or bulk-shopping in the “purple” department at The Adjective Store on your part is going to erase the internal contradictions in your arguments for gun control and against other governmental infringements on other rights.

    I hope you take the time to remember my “…comparing making mass murder freely available to the Boston knuckleheads to limiting my blog posts is not even worthy of a response” every time you write or read a post on how the USG goes after a journalist for publishing something (like all the warrantless surveillance reporting – remember how they raided journalists’ houses?) or getting information from a whistleblower (remember “we don’t need no subpoenas because we already know who’s talking to you journalists”), or going after whistleblowers (like, e.g., Bradley Manning) or press outlets (like Wikileaks). Or how the USG colludes with the Yemeni government to keep imprisoned journalists who would report contrary to the USG-approved narrative on drone-effected killings.

    Remember it every last stinking time you want to carp about those infringements.

    Remember it every last stinking time you want to write about warrantless wiretapping.

    Remember it every last stinking time you want to write about denials of due process at Gitmo.

    It isn’t much of a right if you have to get permission from the government to exercise it. None of them are much of a right if you have to get permission from the government to exercise it. You know that, and you know I’m right.

  8. scribe says:

    @Jim White: Knock yourself out. I’m glad you’ve been so successful you can afford one.

    I’ll limit myself to Parkers and Foxes – I’m looking, slowly and carefully, for a DH in 12 and/or a Sterlingworth in 16. I’m on a budget and in no hurry.

  9. seedeevee says:

    “If investigators had been able to know within hours of the blast where and when the black powder was purchased, would they have been able to arrest the bombers sooner and without the subsequent death of one police officer and near death of another?”


    “So if the sacred right to keep and bear arms can be infringed in no way, why can’t I have an ICBM tipped with a nuke?”


    That’s too much BS for one day. Why even bother to spell it out for you?

    Why not just yell “terrorist” or “Columbine or “crazy Old Person Driving Car” to get your way? Why not just put pictures of the coffins up?

    At a time when civil rights/liberties are rapidly eroding, I don’t think we need more “leftists”, if I may, taking their shots at whatever claims the rest of us would like to make.

    There are no “guarantees” to have poor regulations, poor drug manufacturing or incompetent medical staff.

    It is hardly funny, that you – one who widely uses the bennies of guaranteed free speech – are on the side of the slippery slope of dismantling the Bill of Rights.

    Shall we have mandatory e-mail, phone, and GPS tracking and recording of the press? You know, the press has been busted many many times in receiving and disseminating classified secrets. Shouldn’t there be some sort of registry that all journalists would have to be pre-screened to be on? You know, the pen is mightier than the sword and all that. It would be the practical and middle-of-the-road thing to do.

    How about you propose to regulate guns/ammo and “journalists”, only for a little time – until “things” get better, safer and people become more responsible?

    Sounds like bullshit to me.

  10. seedeevee says:

    @Jim White: @Jim White: “How about everyone who buys a gun has to buy liability insurance to go along with it, just like you have to do for a car?” — and I can remember when that was considered a sell-out to the insurance companies, an infringement on our rights to travel freely and an undue burden on the poor.

    It’s all good if you are a right-wing Texan with lots of money and a friend.

  11. tjallen says:

    It is a ridiculous position, scribe, to claim the constitution must stand or fall as a whole, and that we cannot fix one part and leave the rest intact. Of course we can fix some parts and not others, and fixing one part in no way invalidates the rest. Your position has no foundation.

  12. Bill Michtom says:

    @scribe, this alone

    “I’ll limit myself to Parkers and Foxes – I’m looking, slowly and carefully, for a DH in 12 and/or a Sterlingworth in 16.”

    proves the point about mastubatory fantasies. At least I assume these are references to weapons–though why this is something you feel compelled to share is beyond me. Also, I’m especially impressed with the ‘slowly and carefully.’ Does that send tingles up your leg?

  13. scribe says:

    @Bill Michtom: Your ignorance is showing, in spades. I’ll take the time to educate my adversary, disregarding my usual reluctance to do so, because others might read this thread and wonder what I’m talking about and exactly why you’re so ignorant.

    A “Parker” is a fine shotgun, made for hunting and target shooting, by the Parker Bros. company, originally of Meriden, CT, sometime between 1866 and 1937. A “DH” is a model of shotgun produced by Parker. “In 12” in this context means that the gun is chambered for 12 gauge shells. To put a number on it, when the DH was introduced in about 1875, it cost $100. So, this is not some cheap toy.

    Similarly, a “Fox” is a fine shotgun made originally by the Ansley H. Fox Company of Philadelphia and later, after purchasing the Fox company, by Savage Arms of Utica, NY, sometime between 1910 and 1942. A “Sterlingworth” is a model of Fox’s shotguns. “In 16”, in this context, means a shotgun chambered for 16 gauge shells. These were and generally remain a bit less expensive than Parkers, while being of similar high quality.

    Given the age of these guns and the fact that they’ve been used for many of those years, even though they were made to the highest quality standards, it takes careful shopping and examnation to not wind up buying a clunker. So, I’m proceeding carefully and slowly to avoid spending my hard-earned coin on an expensive paperweight.

    I made a point of breaking Jim’s balls about his having enough money to buy himself an ICBM – he’s the guy who says he wants one making, I suppose, his poor attempt at something approximating a reductio ad absurdam – particularly when compared to my limited budget. Your immediate rush to pin masturbatory fantasies on me for engaging in careful shopping – I’m in no hurry to buy – reveals far more about yourself than you really ought to want out there for all to see.

  14. Sojourner says:

    I am rather late to this party, as I have been on the road for several days. I just have to comment, though, at a higher level… We are supposed to be a nation of laws…A nation “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Our government is not functioning, and either cannot or will not enforce the laws that exist. It cannot, I suspect, because of the austerity crowd, and will not because of money from big business. In other words, it is now a nation that exists solely for business needs. “Oh, but we can police ourselves,” they cry! Fat chance…

    How is terror made out of explosives any different than terror created through market manipulation and financial means? Terror by explosives gets run through the “full force” of our justice system (whatever that means)… Financial terror is ignored.

    How can this be made a country for PEOPLE again?

  15. scribe says:

    @scribe: Besides, I’m just trying to heed Vice-President Biden’s call: “Buy a double-barrelled shotgun!”

    You guys do approve of listening to the VP, right?

  16. scribe says:

    @Sojourner: I agree wholeheartedly with you, Sojourner. Make no mistake, carrying out violence on one’s fellow man is wrong. But the violence can be fiscal or economic, not explosive, and do as much or more harm to society as a whole and people individually.

    Yet our society celebrates those effecting fiscal and economic violence, and the soldiers, drone-fliers, intel operatives, cops and the politicians directing them, when they effect physical violence. I commented elsewhere a while back that it seems strange that people will latch onto a particular politician who promises to “end the violence” when a necessary prerequisite for that politician to get into the high office he holds is to exhibit a willingness to kill thousands. In the case of becoming President, one has had to (for more than 60 years) be deemed willing and able – by the Serious People who decide who gets to run in the first place – to immolate millions under nuclear weapons to defend American capitalism against … whatever. If you’re not credible in your willingness to kill millions, you’ll never get the chance.

    And this overlooks that the history of Man is a history of violence.

    I have no answer on how to effect change and little hope of doing it – too many people are making too much money with things just the way they are. People turn away from violence only when their hearts change and I don’t see that happening any time soon.

  17. seedeevee says:

    @Jim White: Yah, Jim. Go lower and lower with your denominators.

    I fully agree with your “Galtian” train of thought – in regards to regulatory shenanigans.

    Linking to the evisceration of the Bill of Rights is just wrong.

    You know that C4 tags were put in place to see what country they came from — since not too many make it. And we also know that any “respectable” terrorist or CIA plant can get C4 with an acceptable tag.

    I appreciate the great job you are doing here but when my Bill if Rights is being attacked I get uppity.

  18. For The Turnstiles says:

    Why Are Media Ignoring TX Fertilizer Plant’s History Of Skirting Regulations?

    All three cable news networks failed to highlight a West, Texas, fertilizer plant’s storage of 270 tons of ammonium nitrate – 1,350 times the amount allowed without disclosure to the federal government – in reporting on the April 17 explosion at that plant. The networks also virtually ignored the plant’s history of violating state and federal regulations.

  19. For The Turnstiles says:

    Famed EPA Whistleblower Hits Media Coverage of ‘Criminal’ Texas Plant Explosion

    Managers of the West, Texas fertilizer plant that ignited, killing at least fourteen (with others still missing), mainly first responders, should face a federal grand jury “but you can’t get to that if the media won’t even give people the facts – and in the case of the Times and Reuters, have given people false facts,” says Hugh B. Kaufman, a senior analyst at the Environmental Protection Agency since the 1970s.

    “Don’t forget, unlike Hurricane Sandy, this is a man-made disaster,” Kaufman declares. “The bottom line is: It’s a law enforcement, criminal violations issue, that resulted in needless loss of life. These guys in Texas broke the criminal statutes of the United States, but the media and Texas politicians are pretending it’s a regulatory policy issue.”

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