Sunday, November 11, 2018

100 Years Ago

The guns of WWI fell silent 100 years ago. God willing that we never see conflict like that again - there's a reason why secular pacifism came into existence after WWI.
It was a war with horrific military casualties - casualties really only exceeded by WWII - and even more horrific civilian casualties - including no less than three separate genocides committed by the Ottoman Turks.
But in this uncertain world, there is really only one thing that I'm sure of: War will come, and the American Soldier, Sailor, Marine, and Airman. So thank a veteran this armistice day - and remember, even those who just fixed diesel engines or radios faced the possibility of doing that in a war zone.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Midland Syntech I, XTR, and II Radios

I have a few old Midland Syntech radios. These are truly nice radios. Tough, dependable, and difficult to kill. There are, admittedly, some downsides - programming the Syntech I line requires a special programmer, and the XTRs and IIs require DOS (or a pre-XP version of Windows) a special programming cable and a serial port. They're also rather short on features compared to most modern radios, may require physical tuning in order to operate in ham bands, and have all the convenience and ergonomics of a pile of bricks, although they're not as bad as the GE Delta/Rangrs are. But they WORK, and what few parts aren't available from an electronics hobby store can fairly easily be acquired from a very inexpensive parts radio. In fact, if you acquire two or three parts radios, you can use them to make one or two (depending on how many, and which parts have gone bad) fully functional radios. I have, in fact done this twice (note: XTR control heads are fully interchangeable).
For an entry level Ham, these are the perfect radio: They can be acquired cheap or free. Getting them programmed, modded, and repaired for ham use is valuable experience (and can be fun, if you like tinkering). And finally, these 25-35 year old radios are tough enough that it won't be hard to make them last another 25-35 years - something that certainly can't be said about many of the newer amateur and commercial radios available.

Effective Gun Control

If you have a drill, a hacksaw, and $30-$40 of hardware, you can make a single shot pistol. It doesn't even require any specialized knowledge. For additional $20-$30 and a moderate amount of knowledge, you can make an (admittedly low quality) open bolt SMG.
And of course, this is buying that hardware in US stores. In Brazil or the Philippines, there are entire illicit industries devoted to making firearms of varying quality.
In the end, implementing effective gun requires two things:
1. Killing off everyone who has enough knowledge to make a gun on their own.
2. Destroying all the tooling and hardware usable for making a gun.
And then, after we've returned to the stone age because we destroyed all our industry and killed everyone who had the knowledge to rebuild, we'll finally be free of the firearms menace.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

On Kavanaugh

The first two allegations were, while weak due a lack of corroborating evidence and the fact that all direct witnesses have categorically denied the existence of the events in questions (and in one case denied knowing Kavanaugh at all), at least somewhat plausible. There was a chance that such an event could have evaded the notice of the many background investigations that have been run of Kavanaugh, as unlikely as it seems. This most recent one though, accusing him of attending gang rape parties?
Brett Kavanaugh has undergone six background investigations. At least one of these was an SSBI (Single Scope Background Investigation, done for all clearances above "Secret").
This isn't some "Hey we checked a database and you don't have a criminal record". This is a "We went and talked to your old next door neighbor. And your friends growing up. And your mom. And that girl you kissed in the fifth grade. And the dude you bullied in the second grade. And your father's brother's nephew's cousin's former roommate. And he said you did weed in the sixth grade, so you don't get a clearance."
The chances that an SSBI would miss Gang Rape parties is beyond ludicrous, to the point where if the accusation is true, we've got bigger problems than who the next SCOTUS justice is.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Lest we Forget

17 Years ago, a paradigm changed. Hijacking ceased to be something you could expect to survive so long as you stayed calm, followed orders, and got down on the ground as soon as SWAT/HRT/SAS/whoever stormed the plane, and became something where you HAD to assume you were going to die. Let us mourn the dead, but let us also celebrate the heroism of Flight 93, who upon hearing about the earlier hijackings, acted decisively and with courage.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

National (or Universal) Injunctions and Free Speech

A Washington District Judge has issued a Nationwide Temporary Restraining Order (TRO, also known as universal injunctions) to prevent DEFDIST from distributing the DEFCAD files. Given that at least one SCOTUS justice has commented on such injunctions in a fairly derogatory fashion (see Justice Thomas' concurrence, starting on pg 47 of the PDF), it seems likely that such injunctions are on thin ice... But since the TRO only mentions DEFDIST, and pretty much all the other interested parties are happily distributing the files (See and, among other places, and note that some of these places only provide links to Magnet URIs for torrents or links to an external download mirror), it's not likely going to have much effect, even if SCOTUS doesn't decide to slap it down ASAP. Especially since at least a few are going to respond to any such TRO with "Make me" at which point the judge either finds out just how little power he has, or the case gets fast tracked to SCOTUS.  The Streisand effect is in full force.
Links to the magnet URIs for the original DEFDIST mega pack (the one that predates the State Department cease and desist, the settling of which set off the current to do), and the current FOSSCAD mega pack can be found on the Gun Related Downloads tab. As Mr. Universe said, "You can't stop the signal."

3D Printed Guns Aren't the Boogieman

The response to the settlement between Cody Wilson’s DEFDIST and the State Department has been nothing short of excessive, for a variety of reasons. If you listen to the right broadcasts, and read the right articles, no one could blame you for thinking that there will be blood in the streets. A district judge in Washington state has issued a temporary restraining order to keep DEFDIST from distributing their files through the DEFCAD portal. Leaving aside the obvious technical problems in his reasoning (the cat is well out of the bag, and trying to stuff it back in just invokes the Streisand Effect), and potential legal issues (at least one SCOTUS justices is less than equitably inclined towards universal injunctions issued by lower courts, not to mention that this WILL get challenged on first amendment grounds), there is absolutely no reason for preventing the distribution of the DEFCAD files.
There are two ways to make a gun with a 3D printer. The first is to 3D print the entire gun. The type example of this is Cody Wilson’s Liberator pistol (named after the WWII era gun). As with it’s namesake, it is a single shot pistol with limited uses, albeit in a smaller (and not terribly adequate) caliber. It is useful mostly for causing freakouts by people who don’t realize how useless it is. Most of the freaking out seems to be due to the the fact that it’s plastic, and the chunk of metal included in the design isn’t structural and can be removed (illegally) without adversely affecting the gun, making a weapon that could theoretically slip past a metal detector. Just what someone is going to do with only one or two rounds of ammunition and a single shot handgun I’m not sure, but it isn’t going go well for them. I’d be more concerned by all the Swiss Army knives , actual useful guns and high explosives the TSA keeps missing. There’s no point in getting all worked up over a single shot, single (assuming you want to keep your fingers) use pistol when it seems like pretty much everything else already gets past the TSA.
The second method of making a gun involves making a receiver (or lower receiver, depending on the gun), which, in a factory produced gun would be the serialized (with exceptions, home made firearms aren’t required to be serialized) and controlled part. AR-15s are quite popular for this, due to the ease of assembly and a multitude of interchangeable options. Of course, most of those parts are metal, so your homebuilt AR isn’t going through any metal detectors. It is, however a useful gun… but people have been building them in their garages for decades, using everything from plastic, to wood, to the traditional aluminum, and even steel, using various tools and techniques, some of which wouldn’t be out of place in the late 19th century.
In fact, 3D printed firearms should be very far down anyone’s list of priorities, and that includes people who want to get rid of guns. Slamfire pipe shotguns are significantly easier, have a lower entry point, have a very minimal cost per build, and require no specialized knowledge to produce. Open bolt submachine guns have been produced using common tools and materials purchased from a hardware store, and there are a multitude of how to manuals that make it so you need only minimal knowledge for production. There are even a couple that are aimed at mass production, as opposed to small and individual scale production. This particular brouhaha is about sixty years out of date.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Today in History....

The Warsaw Uprising started.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

SCOTUS, one of the most effective Checks on the Executive

On Monday, Mr. Trump announced his pick for SCOTUS to fill Justice Kennedy's seat, with Judge Brett Kavanaugh. At this point, assuming that Judge Kavanaugh gets seated (which he likely will), the Trump Presidency, despite some truly bad decisions on the part of the Executive, will be an overall win. Now, I'm still rather displeased with the president on several issues, and I'm not planning on voting for him, but most of his less exemplary decisions are entirely executive in nature, meaning that they only last as long as an executive wants them to. The judiciary on the other hand, can be shaped for a generation, and so far, his picks have been solid. Moreover, his one seated pick so far, Gorsuch, has already once ruled in ways that limit  the Trump administration. A good SCOTUS is a major limiter on executive shenanigans, and so far Trump has strengthened, rather than weakened, that limiter.
Just don't expect me to be happy when SCOTUS has to remind the executive branch that the Constitution, not the personal beliefs of the executive or of the bureaucrats involved, is the supreme law of the land.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Justice Kennedy's retirement

The current Democrat woes over SCOTUS is entirely of their own design. So far, they've had French flatulence blow up in their faces when the Biden rule got invoked to prevent Merrick Garland from sitting on SCOTUS, then again when Reid's filibuster reform got extended to SCOTUS nominations to allow Gorsuch to take a seat. Now, because it benefited them to have the Biden rule only apply to presidential elections, they're about to get another Trump appointee to SCOTUS (hopefully a strict constructionist, originalist, or textualist). It's even worse for them because Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Stephen Breyer didn't retire under Obama, when they could've at least ensured that it would only take one justice to tip the balance back in their favor. From here out, Ginsberg and Breyer have to survive until the next president takes office - two to six years from now - at an age where death can happen suddenly and without warning for a variety of reasons, in order to prevent Trump from creating a SCOTUS that would be almost impossible for any single president to flip.
I'm not exactly full of sorrow over their mistakes.