Archive for April, 2013

Luckily technology is moving faster than the anti-liberty movement in gun rights

April 29, 2013 17 comments

pistolgripGun control and gun rights are continuing to remain in the national spotlight. As a liberty-loving American I am strictly opposed to gun control. But even more I am opposed to background checks and getting government permission for exercising rights protected by the constitution. There is no logical reason to restrict law-abiding citizens to rules criminals will simply ignore. Fortunately there is one thing the anti-liberty movement is having a hard time fighting: progress.

The progress I speak of is technology. Technology is making many of the steps taken by the anti-gun movement irrelevant. Specifically 3D printers will allow consumers to manufacture parts for their own goods; this includes gun parts! Anyone owning a 3D printer can create plastic parts from a CAD drawing. The ability to create these parts changes the whole gun control debate.

First lets look at “assault weapons”. Anti-gun movements have been trying to get assault-style weapons banned for a long time. The problem with these assault weapon bans is the lack of functional difference between an “assault rifle” and a hunting rifle. Cosmetic additions to a rifle such as a pistol grip, a bayonet lug, or a folding stock are what give the classification of ‘assault’. Each of these parts can now be made by anyone with a 3D printer. Any attempt to ban the sale of these items becomes irrelevant when consumers can print out their favorite gun cosmetic feature.

High capacity magazines are also a common target of the gun control advocates. However there are already plans available for 3D printers that allow consumers to make their own high-capacity magazines. DEFCAD has plans on their website available for a 30-round magazine to be used with an AR-15. As time goes on I expects there will be magazines and clips available for a larger selection of weapons.

Finally there are projects out there to create whole weapons from plastic using a 3D printer. Defense Distributed has a project called ‘wiki weapon’ to create a firearm made completely out of plastic. Due to limitations with current plastic 3D printers this may not be entirely possible; however the project should be able to get close enough that only a couple small pieces will need to be purchased separately. Since these new weapons are plastic they are generally going to be single use items. However the ability to create these weapons cheaply using a 3D printer makes them perfect self-defense items. If one is used in the act of self-defense, the parts for a new one can easily be printed out. I would also expect cheaper 3D printers that can handle metal to hit the market within a couple of year as well. That will then allow weapons to be created that will last longer than a single use.

There is one hurdle that must be overcome this  year in the battle of using 3D printers to create weapons: The Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988. This law passed again in December of 2003 and will sunset December of this year. This law does the following:

(Senate agreed to House amendment with an amendment) Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 – Amends the Federal criminal code to make it unlawful to manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer, or receive any firearm:

(1) which is not as detectable as the Security Exemplar (after the removal of grips, stocks, and magazines) by walk-through metal detectors calibrated and operated to detect the Exemplar; or

(2) of which any major component, when subjected to inspection by x-ray machines commonly used at airports, does not generate an image that accurately depicts the shape of the component.

Defines the term “Security Exemplar” to mean an object that is suitable for testing and calibrating metal detectors and is, during the 12-month period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act, constructed of 3.7 ounces of stainless steel in a shape resembling a handgun.

Directs the Secretary of the Treasury, at the close of such 12-month period and at appropriate times thereafter, to promulgate regulations to permit the manufacture, importation, sale, shipment, delivery, possession, transfer, or receipt of firearms that are as detectable as a security exemplar which contains 3.7 ounces of stainless steel or such lesser amount as is detectable in view of advances in state-of-the-art developments in weapons detection technology.

This law does come directly at odds with the current trend in 3D printing. 3D guns will most likely be undetectable by metal detectors and likely hard to spot with x-ray technologies. The Undetectable Firearms Act must be allowed to expire this year so lawful citizens can engage in their constitutionally protected rights to bear arms and privacy. Otherwise this law will be used as another way for the government to harass otherwise lawful citizens over a victim-less crime.

Republicans in DC need to reconnect to their base

April 28, 2013 Comments off

cartoon_elephant_silhouetteThis evening I found myself at an event that many would think a libertarian would avoid: The Brown County Republicans Lincoln Day Dinner. Overall my wife and I had a very nice evening and I am glad I went (of course now I owe my wife, she hates politics and didn’t really want to go). As I reflect upon the evening I can’t help but think DC would be in much better shape if the politicians there actually stayed connected with their constituents.

Most of the people I visited with at the event were small government conservatives. They are hard-working people who want to keep government out of their lives and pocketbooks. Very little talk at the event revolved around social issues. In fact I’m struggling to remember a conversation that didn’t revolve around economic issues. Most of those I spoke with believed our economy would be in much better shape if DC would learn to control its spending. I happen to agree with them.

During the ‘social hour’ portion of the night I finally had the chance to meet Representative Kaiser. Being a Ron Paul Republican I would say he was probably the most economically conservative politician in attendance. It was great being able to finally speak with a politician that understands why the Feds money printing policy is destroying our economy. I really hope the state is able to find more politicians like him to work in Pierre… and DC for that matter. The party should learn to embrace liberty focused politicians such as Rep Kaiser. I think that would add a conservative conscience to the party.

Then came the portion of the night where I became truly annoyed: the non-speeches. Representative Noem and Senator Thune both had a person from their staff read a letter. I hate it when politicians send a staff member with a letter. It is understandable these two politicians could not be there. However it always come off as impersonal when a staff member reads a letter. The staff member just saying a few words on behalf of the politicians seems to work much better. But that is just a personal preference and others may disagree.

Senator Hoeven (ND) then gave his speech. It was just as I expected: LONG. I’ve seen him speak before so I knew what to expect. Overall he made some good points about DC. But he spoke for Governor Rounds as the next Senator from SD too much. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I believe endorsements should wait until after its known who is running for the Republican ticket and what each of them stands for.

Finally we get to Governor Rounds speech. Rounds said all the right things. He focused upon the economy and how out of control federal spending was (well, actually Hoeven spoke more about that, but Rounds mirrored it). Most notably he told his yellow ribbon story and how politicians need to keep the promises they make to constituents  To me this should be a ‘theme’ for the Republican party: keep in contact with and keep the promises made to constituents. If the Republican Party had been doing this I believe  our economy would be thriving; instead of being drug down by over-taxation and over-regulation. Part of me wishes I can believe Governor Rounds… But alas I feel when he becomes our next Senator he will fall in line with the National Republican Party. By falling in line with the national party the constituents back here in South Dakota will once again be left behind. Since he is likely to be our next Senator I hope I am wrong about him falling in line with the national party.

Leaving the event I couldn’t help but think our country would be in much better shape if those in DC actually worked for their constituents. Hopefully Rounds is getting a surge of conservatism and will keep the promises he makes. The good people here in South Dakota deserve no less than politicians that truly stand up for what they promise.



P.S. – The best line of the night came from a very nice elderly lady at my table: “We have guns in every closet!”. There are only a few states in the US where you can hear a statement like that. Luckily South Dakota is one of those states.

P.S. 2 – Funniest moment of the night (from my perspective). Upon entering the event my wife was in a hurry. There was a gentleman obstructing foot traffic by standing in the middle of the hallway talking with others. My wife said ‘excuse me’ and tried to squeeze behind him. In doing so she ended up knocking him to the side. He was nice about it and said hello. I just smiled. Since my wife doesn’t follow politics at any level, she had no idea she had just knocked into the former Governor of South Dakota, Mike Rounds. Haha, her face went instantly red when I told her who he is. I think she felt bad because she realized why he was in the middle of the walkway, he wanted to shake hands and meet people.

It is time to get politics out of the Airports

April 26, 2013 3 comments

Anonymous_Roadsign_AiplaneAt first I was annoyed when I found out South Dakota Senator Thune was charging a bill through the Senate in response to the FAA’s temper tantrum over the sequester cuts. It was the FAA’s choice to implement the cuts in the most painful (and public) manner possible. By doing this the FAA was hoping for a response. They got one.

But now the FAA will have to live with the results of the response. The actual bill passed by the Senate late last night allows the FAA to take $253 million in funds from non-operation-impacting places and use them to fill the gap left by the furlough. It is expected the bill will be quickly passed by the House today and signed by President Obama immediately. All of the politicians involved will give themselves a pat on the back for solving a problem that would impact millions of Americans.

Going back to the results… Huh? The FAA had a quarter of a billion dollars available for use in accounts that have nothing to do with their actual mission?! Without the sequestration this waste of taxpayer dollars would never have come to light. By allowing the FAA to transfer this money, Congress is highlighting the sequestration cuts are working (although probably not how they intended). Its going to be very hard for the FAA to throw temper tantrums in the future after their bluff was called this time.

The even bigger question though is this: “Why did the sequester cuts impact air traffic controller for the United States?”. The simple answer to this is: “Because our current air-traffic controller system is a bureaucratic government monopoly”. The airlines have little or no control over air traffic, even though it is their customers that are impacted. Air traffic is instead controlled by politicians that are making decisions based upon special interest groups; as opposed to the needs and safety of airline customers.

It is time for the country to look back at Al Gores initiative to privatize the airline industry (I’m no fan of Gore, but he was right on this issue). Despite what the air-traffic controller unions say, it DOES work to privatize their industry. Canada is decades ahead of the United States because their air traffic controllers have been privatized. Now its time for the United States to do the same.

For more information about why the air-traffic situation is so bad in the United States I would say the video below is worth the seven and a half minutes to watch.

Hopefully other federal agencies will throw large temper tantrums like the FAA has. Then maybe we can get more government waste under control.

CISPA is stopped for now

April 25, 2013 Comments off

valessiobrito_Plate_Computer_PrivacyIt was reported earlier today by the ACLU (via USA News) that CISPA has been shelved in the Senate. CISPA passed in the house last week. I’ve blogged before about how CISPA tramples on privacy rights with no benefits to network security. CISPA would allow the government to collect and use private data without a warrant.

At first it seems good that CISPA has been killed. However here is a quote from the USA News story:

“We’re not taking [CISPA] up,” the committee representative says. “Staff and senators are divvying up the issues and the key provisions everyone agrees would need to be handled if we’re going to strengthen cybersecurity. They’ll be drafting separate bills.”

Drafting separate bills would certainly make it harder to determine the true impact to privacy and civil rights. This approach may stop Obama from threatening veto. It is various aspects of CISPA combined that make it such a danger to privacy rights. By separating these pieces into separate bills it will do the following:

  1. Give the security hawks what they want: more power without worrying about those pesky constitutional rights to privacy.
  2. Make Obama look like a hero for privacy: each ‘little’ bill will have less impact upon rights.
  3. Make it harder for those fighting against CISPA: bringing attention to one bill that nobody understands is hard enough; imaging trying to fight multiple bills that seem harmless by themself. 

It is expected that any further action will take a few months.

In the mean time, legislation such as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act will be considered by the Senate. This legislation updates the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986. According to The Hill, this piece of legislation would require law enforcement to get a warrant before searching emails. Hopefully this bill can gain support in Congress. 

Categories: Rights Tags: ,

Choosing the right Federal Budget Proposal

April 25, 2013 Comments off

Earlier this year I speculated about whether Congress and the President will actually pass a budget for Fiscal Year 2014. So far I’ve seen little to change my opinion that no budget will be passed; at least not before FY2014 starts on October 1, 2013. There are five major plans before Congreess right now that need to be considered. Each of them sets spending for the next 10 years.

Here is a chart provided by Veronique de Rugy showing spending over the next 10 years from each of the five proposals:

Spending-proposals-2-1000 (1)

There is a definite difference between the Democratic and Republican proposals. It’s easy to see the Republican proposals. Both the House Republican and Senate Paul proposals a noticable cut in proposed spending for FY2014. FY2015 has roughly the same spending proposed as 2014 had. Then spending slowly rises for each year thereafter. Of the Republican plans I definitly support the Senator Rand Paul approach;  however even the House Republican (Paul Ryan) plan addresses needed spending cuts. Both plans cut spending by over a Trillion dollars by 2023.

The two Democrat plans are very different from the Republican counter-parts. Obama’s proposed budget is actually hard to distinguish from the Senate Democrat proposed budget. Both plans have higher spending proposed than the current baseline (if  no budget is passed). Starting in 2016 both plans do start to fall below the baseline; however only by a few hundred-billion dollars by 2023.Looking at the two Democrat plans it would look better if Congress decided not to pass a budget for a couple of years.

No matter which plans is chosen, Government spending grows between now and 2013. The main question we should be asking now: “Is it the time to reign in government spending”. To that I say YES. Hopefully enough politicians in DC will think so as well (although I doubt it, many of these cuts would hurt special interests that spend a lot of lobby money in DC).

US Senate set to pass Internet Sales Tax

April 24, 2013 4 comments

sale-tagToday the US Senate is likely to vote on the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013 (S.743). The full title of this bill is: “A bill to restore States’ sovereign rights to enforce State and local sales and use tax laws, and for other purposes.” You gotta love how misleading both the short and full titles of this bill are.

This bill will require any company that has online sales greater than $1 million in a given year to collect sales tax from each purchase. Proponents of this bill say this will even the field for small businesses that have brick and mortar stores. Ironically they have been saying (with a straight face) that this is not a tax hike, but rather using the federal government to enforce current state laws. Most of the support for this bill has come from the left, but there is plenty of support from conservatives as well.

There are many problems with this bill. Lets look at a few of these problems briefly:

  • This is bill is NOT going to help small business owners at all. In fact it will help large big-box retailers such as Walmart and Target.  I can’t help but chuckle at the irony of Democrats helping their favorite corporation to hate.
  • It assumes online purchases put equal stress upon the infrastructure compared to brick and mortar stores. That simply isn’t true. Brick and mortar stores use a lot of local infrastructure such as water, sewer, roads, etc.. to conduct their business. This is the basic premises for charging sales tax. Online retailers use much fewer portions of the public infrastructure. Looking at the title of this bill: is it ‘fair’ in this scenario for online etailers to pay the same sales tax rate as brick and mortar stores? Especially when brick and mortar stores are more of a burden upon the infrastructure!?
  • The United States has  9,646 tax jurisdictions. Initially this bill only seems to take State sales taxes into account. But what about the various county and municipality sales taxes? Are those going to be added to this as well? It’s already a nightmare for local companies to keep track of sales and use tax rules in some areas; do we really want to expand this confusion to the national level?
  • Adding to the last point; Sales taxes vary from state to state (and sometimes from municipality to municipality). Some states exempt certain items from sales tax and tax other items at higher than normal rates. Is it logistically viable for retailers to understand these varying rules for each tax jurisdiction?
  • A few states have no sales tax. If these states choose not to opt into this federal program, then etailers from those states will have a HUGE advantage over etailers from other states. 
  • This changes how sales tax works in practice. Will brick and mortar stores have to follow the spirit of this law?

Let me expand on the last bullet point above. Sales tax is a tax paid by the consumer and collected by the retailer on behalf of the state. Sales taxes are based upon the source of the transaction (the place the items are purchased). However this new internet tax would change sales tax to be based upon the destination of the transaction (where the items will end up after purchase). Will brick and mortar stores have to start asking customers where they live so their proper sales tax can be determined? The title of this bill is the ‘Marketplace Fairness Act’. In the name of ‘fairness’ will proponents of this internet tax suggest brick and mortar stores operate under the same rules. I can guarantee the same big box stores lobbying Congress for this bill would fight any attempt to do this. 

This is a bill to watch. Earlier this week the Senate voted for closure on to proceed (to stop debate and any possible filibuster . The bill is slotted to be voted on today. Since 75 Senators voted to end debate I expect it will pass the Senate with little or no resistance. Hopefully the House will show more resistance to this tax increase. It’s already known we cannot count on Obama for a veto, he thinks this new tax is a good idea (remember him, he was against tax hikes for the middle class, oh wait that was before he decided he was a fan of tax hikes for the middle class). 

As a resident of South Dakota I plan to watch how my elected officials vote. I also look forward to their reasoning for why they vote yes (I expect all three to vote yes, they have shown themselves quite open to lobby monies for votes).

Categories: Taxes Tags: , ,

Letting the FCC know the F-bomb is OK

April 22, 2013 Comments off

This last weekend Boston Red Sox slugger David “Big Papi” Ortiz gave a short thank-you speech to the emergency workers that helped with the marathon bombing situation. Since this event was broadcast live an F-bomb was shown to millions of Americans (a very well placed F-bomb at that). Here is the video of the speech:

There is a pretty good write-up of this ‘incident’ over at Reason. Anyone watching this video (or having seen it live) can hardly say this incident was ‘lewd, outrageous, or indecent’. In fact Big Papi’s expletive seems well-placed and timed.

But that is not what I’m bringing attention to. Instead I believe it is time to let the FCC know that such events are going to happen and they should not be regulated. SCOTUS has already slapped the FCC; now it is time for citizens to let the FCC know this as well. In fact here is what the Supreme’s had to say about FCC’s policy on fleeting expletives:

On remand, the Court of Appeals found the policy was vague and, as a result, unconstitutional.

In the after-math of their loss in court the FCC has decided to ask for public comments in regards to “fleeting expletives” such as those done by Big Bapi. If you would like to add comments for the FCC to review in this matter head over to this post at Radio Survivor. There Matthew Lasar has a great write-up on the request for comments from the FCC and instructions explaining how to file a comment.

And.. For anyone that sees no value in the word Fuck I would say this video showing the versatility of the word Fuck is well worth the watch:

Categories: Free Speech Tags: ,
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