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Archive for the Policy category

January 9th, 2013

Fun with Guns in Richmond

Posted in Policy, Politics, Society, Virginia by MB

So Virginia’s favorite emissary from the Dark Ages, Del. Bob Marshall, is back in Richmond and ready to push guns into our schools. So Del. Marshall knows the law when it comes to guns, right? Check this out, from last month:

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For the record, you can take an online class and you do not need to be fingerprinted (in fact, Del.Bob Marshall voted to repeal that requirement just last year). Further, you do not need to show any kind of proficiency with a firearm in order to get a concealed carry permit. Finally, the online class? Is a rather unfunny joke. 

The quality of Virginia’s legislation and legislators is on full display here.

Update:

To save readers the trouble of verifying the above, here are the requirements for residents, as set out by the Virginia State Police (emphasis supplied):

Application for a Concealed Handgun Permit

Any person 21 years of age or older may apply in writing to the clerk of the circuit court of the county or city in which he or she resides, or if he is a member of the United States armed forces, the county or city in which he is domiciled, for a five-year permit to carry a concealed handgun.

[ . . .]

The court shall require proof that the applicant has demonstrated competence with a handgun and the applicant may demonstrate such competence by one of the following, but no applicant shall be required to submit to any additional demonstration of competence:

  1. Completing any hunter education or hunter safety course approved by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries or a similar agency of another state;
  2. Completing any National Rifle Association firearms safety or training course;
  3. Completing any firearms safety or training course or class available to the general public offered by a law-enforcement agency, junior college, college, or private or public institution or organization or firearms training school utilizing instructors certified by the National Rifle Association or the Department of Criminal Justice Services;
  4. Completing any law-enforcement firearms safety or training course or class offered for security guards, investigators, special deputies, or any division or subdivision of law enforcement or security enforcement;
  5. Presenting evidence of equivalent experience with a firearm through participation in organized shooting competition or current military service or proof of an honorable discharge from any branch of the armed services;
  6. Obtaining or previously having held a license to carry a firearm in this Commonwealth or a locality thereof, unless such license has been revoked for cause;
  7. Completing any firearms training or safety course or class, including an electronic, video, or on-line course, conducted by a state-certified or National Rifle Association-certified firearms instructor;
  8. Completing any governmental police agency firearms training course and qualifying to carry a firearm in the course of normal police duties; or
  9. Completing any other firearms training which the court deems adequate.

A photocopy of a certificate of completion of any of the courses or classes; an affidavit from the instructor, school, club, organization, or group that conducted or taught such course or class attesting to the completion of the course or class by the applicant; or a copy of any document which shows completion of the course or class or evidences participation in firearms competition shall constitute evidence of qualification under this subsection.

No applicant shall be required to submit to any additional demonstration of competence, nor shall any proof of demonstrated competence expire.

[  . . . ]

The court shall issue the permit within 45 days of receipt of the completed application unless it appears that the applicant is disqualified.

Want an example of the kind of online class we’re talking about?  Check out VAGunTraining.com, where $25 and less than 25 minutes (the video itself is 17:28) will get you a certificate acceptable for a concealed carry permit.  From their FAQ:

Can I really get a Virginia Concealed Handgun Permit by just taking this class?

Just like any other training recognized by the state, you will still need to apply at your local courthouse and pay the appropriate fees. You must also pass the required background check conducted by your local courthouse. Our training satisfies the competency requirement for obtaining a Concealed Handgun Permit in the state of Virginia.

Is your class state recognized?

Yes. Virginia residents are able to obtain a Concealed Handgun permit by using our state-recognized class to prove firearm competency. You will still need to apply at your local courthouse and pass a background check.

So I can get a Virginia Concealed Handgun Permit without firing a gun?

Yes. The law requires passing a safety class that meets certain requirements. Our class meets and exceeds these requirements so firing a handgun is not required.

Think this might be too much?  No worries:

How hard is the test?

If you watch our video, the test will be incredibly easy for you to pass even if you have no prior firearm experience. We have a 99.9% first time pass rate.

If I fail the test, can I retake it for free?

Yes, you may retake the test as many times as you it takes for you to pass the exam free of charge. If you fail, we encourage you to rewatch the video.

This hasn’t always been the case, in Virginia.  Not too long ago, you did actually need to demonstrate competence at a range, and get fingerprinted (in Arlington, at least).  Now?  Well.

Don’t you feel safer knowing that anyone with $25 and no serious record can carry around a deadly weapon in his pocket?

July 12th, 2012

By the time I get to Arizona . . .

Posted in Personal, Policy, Society by MB

As an Arizona- born native?  I think Gov. Jan Brewer and these law enforcement clowns should be ashamed of themselves.  You’d hope that they’d want to do something useful with their lives.  But, no. The guy in this video?  Helps illustrate what a bunch of halfwit clowns they are:

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June 28th, 2012

Clarendon Cycles: Investing in Better Communities

Posted in Cycling, DC, Policy, Virginia by MB

In which I express my frustration with the House GOP turning non-motorized transportation into some silly symbolic part of their culture war.  Sure, go on about art funding, or abortion, or imaginary people coming to take your guns away.  But really, making streets safe for all users is now for liberals only?  Christ.

April 29th, 2012

Transparency Camp 2012

Posted in Law, Policy, Society, Tech by MB

Just finished a weekend at Transparency Camp 2012.  As with lots of these types of conferences (PrivacyCamp and Freedom2Connect come to mind), I approach these as something of an outsider – I’m tech-curious, but by no means experienced.  In the end, I’m just a lawyer, and my expertise in methods often feels a world away from from the folks focused on APIs, datasets, and the latest visualisation tools.  They say API, and I’m all APA!  One of the big to-dos I came away with was to come to next year’s event prepared for a “I am not your lawyer, BUT . . . ” session.

Still, I felt it an incredibly worthwhile expenditure of my time.  I feel like we’re hitting the hook on the hockey stick graph, with progress shooting up as we get more people that “get it” in government* and as we simply get more quality work out of those working with the datasets.   CivicCommons.org?  Sweet.  OpenPlans?  Yes, please.  MapBox?  Wow.

One of the biggest things?  I was blown away by the amount of personal time and effort put into making tools for better government.  All sectors benefit, to some extent, from the personal contributions of people involved with them.  But there were people who had flown from the other side of the planet, on their own dime, to participate in a conference so they could invest yet *more* personal time in something that would ultimately benefit more people than would ever be able to thank them.  I’m not sure that’s sustainable, but damn is it encouraging.

Finally, I want to give some shouts to some local gov’t folks that showed up to this.  Montgomery County’s Hans Reimer led a great session on day one.  Alexandria’s Craig Fifer not only killed it with chicken, but did a great job in presenting on the myths and truths of pushing for transparency in local government.  There were also some DC .gov folks there, but I sadly didn’t get too much of a chance to interact with them.  And really, I regret not roping any Arlington County folks into this, but you can be sure I won’t make that same mistake twice.

 

*I don’t have enough experience that I could honestly defend challenges to this premise that went more than a few rounds, but . . . man, the gov’t folks I see attending this conference now?  Exponentially more with it than the folks I encountered in my municipal broadband days (’03-05).

#tcamp12

December 7th, 2010

About That Deficit . . .

Posted in Policy, Politics by MB

Adam Serwer (correctly) calls bullshit:

The $900 billion deal to extend all of the Bush tax cuts represents a substantial retreat for the president on a major campaign promise, a major victory for the Republican Party, and, let’s face it, complete obliteration of the notion that the deficit matters politically as anything other than a blunt instrument to wield against the welfare state. The deficit is an absolute emergency when it comes to making sure all Americans have health care, but an afterthought when it comes to cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans.

December 2nd, 2010

Is Joe Lieberman Anti-Free Speech?

Posted in Distribution, Policy, Politics by MB

Consider.

Updated: Of course he is. I have now concluded my obvious-answers-to-obvious-questions exercise.

November 28th, 2010

Anything That Keeps Us Safe

Posted in Policy, Society, Travel by MB

Right?

Right?

November 19th, 2010

Friday Notes: Rock Dodge Edition

Posted in Cycling, Distribution, Policy, Taiwan, Travel by MB

Of everything I have on my to-do list today, getting down the “rock dodge” drill for a cycling instructor course is probably the most difficult.  The result isn’t particularly challenging (dodging a rock), it’s the method by which you’re required to do it (a seemingly unnecessary bit of countersteering).  In any event, if that’s the toughest part of the day, it should be a good day, no?  Now on to bits and pieces collected over the week:

30 airports in 30 days.  I remember wishing I could do this, when I saw the JetBlue pass on sale.  It’s been at least 5 years since I last did a “mileage run” (something you do to push yourself just over the line for the next medallion status in a frequent flier program), and quick travel appeals less than it used to.  But this?  Sounded like a bit of fun.

Travelling at a slower speed is what’s gained my interest, lately, and this piece on a significant uptick in bicycle touring makes it sound like I’ve got some company.  A proper cycling tour has been bouncing around in my head for a while, and I think Taiwan cemented my decision to make it happen soon.   It’ll probably start with a long weekend’s out and back along the C&O, to sort things out.  Then maybe a SF-LA (via the PCH) week trip?  After that, who knows?  I should probably stop reading this site, if I want to keep it reasonable . . .

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Here are a couple of interesting pieces on control in the marketplace.  The first is about the differing approaches between Facebook and Google on the matter of who controls your data.  You know you’re doing it wrong when you make Google look unthreatening by comparison.  (I keep trying to kick the Facebook habit, but it’s tougher than you might imagine.  Serious network effect going on, there.)   The second is a post by a San Francisco restauranteur, and why he doesn’t use OpenTable.  It’s really quite interesting, the amount of leverage that OpenTable (with its dominance of the market) has on metro area restaurants.   I’ve been using OpenTable since they arrived in DC (2003?), but this (and, well, this) makes me hope that a competitor will be arriving shortly.

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I admit that, despite the rather large rhetorical role that it’s played in Virginia’s politics, I’ve never taken a close look at “clean coal” (or the veracity of a million claims about it).  So while I realize that it’s just scratching the surface, I felt like I learned a fair bit from the always-informative James Fallows in this article:

To environmentalists, “clean coal” is an insulting oxymoron. But for now, the only way to meet the world’s energy needs, and to arrest climate change before it produces irreversible cataclysm, is to use coal—dirty, sooty, toxic coal—in more-sustainable ways. The good news is that new technologies are making this possible. China is now the leader in this area, the Google and Intel of the energy world. If we are serious about global warming, America needs to work with China to build a greener future on a foundation of coal. Otherwise, the clean-energy revolution will leave us behind, with grave costs for the world’s climate and our economy.

If anyone has rebuttals to this article that I should check out, do pass them along.

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Michael Turton, a Taiwan-based blogger, highlights what I think is a compelling political ad explaining why it’s important to care about politics.  Watch it:

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Yes, it’s in the context of Taiwan, but it struck me as hitting universal truths.

November 18th, 2010

START Priorities

Posted in Personal, Policy, Politics by MB

If you think I can get a bit over the top on the TSA or ridiculously overreaching IP laws, just wait until I get rolling on US/Soviet/Russian nuclear proliferation.  That we ever got to where we are today is testament to both the giant failures and achievements of humanity that we even *have* a today.  And now we’re here, with the GOP preferring to spend its time saving us from Texas Representative/Village Idiot Louis Gohmert’s “terror babies” instead of, well, I’ll let Josh from TPM sketch it out:

Russia still has a massive strategic nuclear arsenal with pretty much the exclusive goal of being able to devastate the United States and kill pretty much all of us. For 15 years we had pretty robust right to inspect their arsenal many times a year, make sure they only had as many as they were allowed under our treaties and actually get up on the delivery missiles themselves and look at the payloads? Now we don’t. In fact, we haven’t since December 5th of last year. At first that wasn’t that big a deal. Not much can happen in a few weeks or few months. But now it’s been almost a year. So all that trust but verify stuff Ronald Reagan was so into? Well, now we can’t verify. And for as much as you’re worried about some Muslim guy blowing up a plane and killing a few hundred people, these are weapons designed to kill hundreds of millions of people. Do you feel more secure knowing we’re just taking everything on faith from the Russians? Or that our intelligence on their missile designs and practices is growing older by the day?

And do we hear the White House pointing this out?  Anyone?  Hello?

November 12th, 2010

Friday Notes: Better Than Raking Edition

Posted in Cycling, Policy, Society, Taiwan, Travel by MB

Hey, did I mention I went to Taiwan? Oh, you hadn’t heard? Well hey, here’s some more photos from the kickoff!

Somewhat more seriously – you should check out Mark V.’s take, over at Bikehugger. It’s more succinct than me. And if what he’s got cued up in his Flickr stream is any indication, it’s going to be more interesting. (He’s inspired me to rethink what can be done with phonecam video.)

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Okay, I kinda want one.  (Should I just have admitted that?)

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Still time to register for the ThinkBike workshops:

The opening session will be kicked off by the Dutch Ambassador Mrs. Renée Jones-Bos.  City staff, local decision makers, and bicyclists are invited to learn more about Dutch cycling infrastructure and policy best practices.

I’ll be there for some of it.

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You’ve seen this already, right?  One part of the Federal government tells us that too much cheese is bad for us while another part works to improve the sales of menu items with 8x the usual cheese?  I think that government has a legitimate role in promoting certain behaviors, but it’s pointless if one effort will undermine the other:

Urged on by government warnings about saturated fat, Americans have been moving toward low-fat milk for decades, leaving a surplus of whole milk and milk fat. Yet the government, through Dairy Management, is engaged in an effort to find ways to get dairy back into Americans’ diets, primarily through cheese.

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Let these roll around in your head for a while:

Here are a few examples of instances where other languages have found the right word and English simply falls speechless.

1. Toska
Russian – Vladmir Nabokov describes it best: “No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.”

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I love Hong Kong. I love a good flow. I love hip-hop. Enjoy all three below, in this video from MC Yan:

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Great post and comment thread on the best tool (and other) warranties. I rarely shop by lowest price, aiming mostly for quality that will last a long time. But service in the event of failure is a definite priority. Because buying cheap shit is ruining us.

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I wish I’d had a chance to see this:

Known to its creators and participating artists as the Underbelly Project, the space, where all the show’s artworks remain, defies every norm of the gallery scene. Collectors can’t buy the art. The public can’t see it. And the only people with a chance of stumbling across it are the urban explorers who prowl the city’s hidden infrastructure or employees of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

That’s because the exhibition has been mounted, illegally, in a long-abandoned subway station.