Thursday, August 14, 2014

NYT Again on 3D-Printed Gun Scare

It's the "devil-weed" of our time, and Nick Bilton of the New York Times is helping to whip of fear about printing guns. Never mind that industrious kids could make zip guns before 3D printers if they really cared to. Hell, when I was a kid I remember the Anarchist Cookbook being all the rage and plenty of experiments with homemade napalm. Somehow the world didn't end.

You needn't read the article - it's the usual fear mongering of "the kids", "metal detectors", and "inability to control". The author's not worried about a wave of juvenile hijackers by the way, these are just the smorgasbord of general "sky-is-falling" concerns. The interesting statement in the article, assuming the author is as anti-gun as his many colleagues and managers, is this one:
"Gun lobbyists argue that 3D-printed guns are pointless because many of these weapons can be fired only a few times before the gun breaks.... But last I checked, one shot is enough to kill someone."
Right. So is an inch of water. I wonder about his reference to "gun lobbyists" and whether if such sources of conversation really did exist for this article, whether "pointless" was really an accurate description of their thoughts on 3D-printed guns. Clearly Bilton is of the crowd that believes banning normal capacity magazines is not enough - that even one round is too many and all guns must magically disappear.

It's not a slow news week, so it's odd to see such a stale bit of work resurrected at the Times.

Have You Helped Out?

As the fall election days soon approach, here's a couple embattled campaigns you may want to help, even with $5 (though $500 would be better):

Washington's I-591 - campaign to protect gun rights this fall in Washington state is in serious need of help
Bob Beauprez - he's neck-and-neck in the Colorado Governor's race against Hickenlooper


Ferguson, Missouri, now becomes a theater of everything wrong with our growing police state. While the problem of overbearing police force and police militarization disproportionately affects some groups, this is an issue affecting all of us. At the end of the day, authoritarianism is color-blind.

As Rand Paul said in an editorial for Time today,
"When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury—national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture—we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands."
While this started with anger over a police culture too willing to use lethal force, the citizen control effort launched in response to civil unrest has taken the spotlight. I'm glad that the media isn't boxing this as some small-town racial issue, but looking at the bigger picture of police violence and questioning the overwhelming imbalance of power between those enforcing the law and the citizens who pay them to do so.

For a variety of reasons, a local police force should be no better armed than the general population that hired them.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Book Recommendation

If you're looking for a good book to read, check out Viper Pilot: A Memoir of Air Combat by Dan Hampton. I soaked up the Kindle edition while travelling, and not only enjoyed it but felt more educated about the USAF by the end of it.

I'm not going to reprint the author's credentials, but he's highly decorated and a very well respected pilot, flying "wild weasel" missions in an F-16 over Iraq in both Gulf Wars. The action he recounts is thrilling, the danger is palpable, and the insights are informative. I found the book slowed down towards the latter third (if only because you're exhausted by the author's retelling of exhausting, hair-raising, seat-of-the-pants survival stories avoiding getting a SAM up the butt) but it's an easy read and rewarding to finish. He did a damn dangerous job that most of us know nothing about.

Also, I mentioned in a post that I was reading Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose, a great book about the Lewis and Clark expedition. If you've read that book, or will soon, a great follow-on is a book entitled Crow Killer: The Saga of Liver-Eating Johnson, which describes a world existent immediately after Lewis and Clark return, and is focused on the mountain men that went West in Lewis' wake. The book is unfortunately not available on Kindle, but it's worth reading if only to further enrich one's understanding of an American experience in the late 1800's. Well footnoted, it's a fascinating mid-century documentation of American oral history, pulled from primary sources still alive at the time.

Alaska Senate Primary

Next week, we'll have the Primary Election to select U.S. Senate candidates to go head-to-head in the General Election. Alaska's election is getting unprecedented national attention due to the razor thin margins by which either party will end up controlling the Senate for the last half of Obama's final term. While Alaska's current senator, Mark Begich, is about as conservative a Democrat as you can find, and is very supportive of Alaska, his reelection would help keep the Senate under Democratic leadership. Conversely, his ouster will help Republicans take the reigns of the national legislature.

Being of proudly libertarian disposition, and having seen first-hand the duplicitous, short-sighted, and close-minded nature of the Alaskan Republican Party leadership, my party affinity is by no means a foregone conclusion each year. With that caveat, as pertains to the fight we have before us for the role of the 2nd Amendment, I do believe it's imperative to take the Democrats out of a leadership position on the national stage. Begich may be pro-gun when he can be, but he's subject to a powerful caucus that can extort his vote, and even more important, he counts towards a Democrat majority which confers many advantages to a party demonstrably opposed to the 2nd Amendment. In essence, a vote for Begich is in many ways a vote for Harry Reid, Dianne Feinstein, and the lot of 'em to continue pushing their national agenda in court appointments and legislation. For the purpose of getting Begich out of office, a Republican vote is the only logical choice. To this end, the Primary winner must be someone who can beat Begich, and ideally the most closely aligned with libertarian first principles. This is a hard balance to find.

So who's on the roster?

  • John Jaramillo
  • Joe Miller (Of "Joe Miller" Fame; Former U.S. Magistrate Judge)
  • Dan Sullivan (Former AK Attorney General, Former Assistant Secretary of State)
  • Mead Treadwell (Current Lt. Governor, great first name)

"Alaskan" credentials are important in elections, for better or worse, so I'm going to address that right away. None of these guys were born here, with Treadwell having been here the longest and Jaramillo the shortest. This will have some relevance in the general election - like it or not - as Mr. Begich is a "son of Alaska", born and bred. To this end, Treadwell has the best defense against the "carpet-bagger" accusations that routinely fly back and forth.

With that out of the way, I'm removing Jaramillo from consideration. He's got zero name recognition in the State, has been in the AK only ten years, and it just ain't happening. Sorry, John.

How does the NRA view these guys?
NRA Report Card for Alaska US Senate Candidates
None of these guys are "endorsed". The "Qualified" "A" ratings are theoretical, meaning their survey answers were good, but they have no record of supporting 2A in an official capacity. The unqualified "A" ratings mean the candidates have a both good answers on their survey and have a track record of supporting the 2nd Amendment. That means Miller and Treadwell rank the best.

So what's up with Begich's A- rating? Again, Begich isn't hostile to the 2nd Amendment, but he did vote against a pro-2A bill pushed by Rand Paul this year. It was a rather insignificant issue in the scheme of things, but it clearly demonstrated that in the wheeling-and-dealing of vote-trading, Begich must obey his Caucus. One can only imagine what they offered or threatened, but it can and will happen again. Further, I believe Begich supported the appointment of federal judges hostile to 2A. As all of us know, the Federal courts are the primary battleground for 2A.

You can listen to a debate, or candidate review, hosted by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce and aired on KSKA here. Just some quick observations:

As you might expect, these guys are aligned on the majority of issues.

talks a good game - he says he wants to go to DC with a crowbar, not a gunnysack, presumably meaning he wants more independence for Alaska, not more federal dollars and oversight. His experience as Lt. Governor gives him passion from first-hand experience interacting with overbearing federal agencies and seeing the development needs in Western Alaska. He talks about the 10th amendment, which is a dog-whistle to the libertarian contingent. He also draws a clear line on not raising the debt ceiling until we get commitment on a balanced budget.

Miller remains more radical-sounding than his opponents, if only because he's articulate about what he believes. More than the others, I believe he's a man of convictions, some of which are consistent with libertarian principles, but as with most establishment Republicans, he supports using the force of federal government to enforce social conservative causes, e.g. abortion, marriage. His best soundbite, aside from "The DEA has no business being in our state", is that he would be the reinforcement to Cruz, Paul, etc. What dogs his campaign is a somewhat soiled image voters already have of him. The company he kept during his last campaign will remain a yoke around his neck. In all honesty, while I admire his clarity and agree with many of his positions, I think he's less palatable to the independent middle ground of our state, to the point where he may end up actually rallying support for Begich.

Sullivan has been around the block, and sounds the most like an establishment conservative or professional politician of the three. In speaking, he lacks Miller's articulated conviction and lacks Treadwell's specific familiarity with Alaskan issues. In this sense he comes across a bit mealy-mouthed about his positions and vision, and to riff on Miller's soundbite, I believe Sullivan would be the reinforcement to McCain. Further, from my first-hand conversations with voters, his track record with subsistence rights as our Attorney General has a high likelihood of pushing the critical rural and Native voting blocs into Begich's camp.

In some ways, the financial backing might imply this primary election is between Miller and Sullivan - Tea Party vs. Establishment backing. In a more local context, I think at least two of the candidates think this election is between Treadwell and Sullivan - those who can best contend with Begich.

My vote next week will be for Mead Treadwell. I think he has the best experience, the right positions, passion, and the best odds of beating Begich. Either way, I'll support the winner. Make up your own mind, but if you're an Alaskan, be sure to vote on 8/19!