Frank Miniter

Why Comcast is Really for Net Neutrality

As they move to merge, Comcast and Time Warner Cable have decided to back the Obama administration’s desire for “net neutrality.” They know the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has to approve their merger. They know the FCC’s five-member board once voted in favor of net neutrality. They know that net neutrality polls well, as most people don’t know what that phrase means. They also need approval from New York State authorities to merge and a lot of New York’s liberal politicians are in favor of net neutrality.

In these political winds, Comcast is now running radio spots saying, “Comcast’s transaction with Time Warner Cable will bring Net Neutrality protection to millions of new customers in cities from New York to Los Angeles. A free and open Internet stimulates competition, promotes innovation, fosters job creation, and drives business. Comcast is the only Internet service provider in America bound by full Net Neutrality rules, ensuring an open Internet and protecting customers.” Comcast’s official position can be seen here.

If net neutrality does all those lofty things, why did Rush Limbaugh say on March 16, 2010, “[N]et neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine of the Internet”?

The answer is in the details.

In 2010 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) doesn’t have the power to regulate an Internet provider’s network. At the time Comcast had filed suit after the FCC tried to stop it from controlling traffic over its network to a popular file-sharing site. The court ruled that the FCC didn’t have “express statutory authority” from the U.S. Congress to regulate the Internet. At the time, most thought this would stop the FCC cold. However, this court ruling didn’t squelch the FCC’s attempt to regulate the Internet with “net neutrality” regulations.

On December 20, 2010 the FCC’s five-member board approved net neutrality rules. The vote was 3-2, with the two Republican members voting “no.” The Obama administration’s former chairman of the FCC’s five-member board, Julius Genachowski, staged this vote a few days before Christmas to keep it out of the headlines.

In January 2014 the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington. D.C., struck down the FCC’s net neutrality rules. This case was brought by Verizon Communications Inc. Meanwhile, as a condition of its 2011 acquisition of NBCUniversal, Comcast agreed to abide by the political definition of net neutrality—meaning it has agreed to treat all online traffic equally and that it won’t give special treatment to its own video services.

The current FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, has said he isn’t for regulating broadband Internet in the same way the landline phone system is. Critics point out that such regulations could burden broadband providers with many new federal rules on pricing and services while putting Washington bureaucrats in charge of the Internet. The FCC, however, can still take action on a case-by-case basis.

Meanwhile, the movement behind net neutrality—from President Barack Obama to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and reportedly to New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand—is coming from the left for political reasons. As liberal dominance of the media has waned under the shadow of FOX News, conservative talk radio and websites such as the Drudge Report, some in the Democratic Party have been looking for creative ways to maintain, or regain, the “mainstream media’s” liberal clout. Net neutrality is one way to attain their goal of dominating the media.

Click here for the rest of my column at Forbes.com.

Here Come the Armed Robots

UnknownThe U.S. Armed Forces is reportedly interested in applying technology from its “One-Shot” program to create sniper rifles that can hit their target every time at extreme long range. The U.S. military is also working on a program called the “Autonomous Rotorcraft Sniper System.” This program would have spotters find and track targets with a drone or even a manned helicopter. The drone would have a rifle mounted in a stabilized turret. The gun would be controlled by a trained operator. It could fly over a battlefield and take out targets inside buildings or behind cover.

All that is just over the horizon. Now a Samsung Group subsidiary is showing that the horizon is here. A robot sentry called the SGR-A1 is being tested to watch South Korea demilitarized zone along the border with North Korea. The SGR-A1 is being made to see enemies with cameras and heat and motion sensors. This .30 caliber machine gun has an optional grenade launcher. It is using IR and visible light cameras to “identify and shoot a target automatically from over two miles [3.2 km] away.” In 2007 the Israeli military first used the Sentry Tech system along it border with Gaza. It has computer-controlled machine guns in pillboxes. It is based on theSamson Remote Controlled Weapon Station. These are just the first attempts at bringing this technology to borders and to the battlefield.

How to Prevent Gun Violence

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 12.12.03 PMThe good folks at Townhall.com kindly had me into their studio just outside D.C. to talk about The Future of the Gun. Here’s a video link to the interview. Sarah Jean Seman had some penetrating questions about America’s relationship with the gun and how we keep our freedom while continuing to become a safer nation.

Bows are Pushing the Limits

Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 11.30.49 AMKatniss Everdeen, you know, the fictional heroine in The Hunger Games books and now movies, is making bows popular with a new generation of girls and boys. Meanwhile, hunters and competitive archers are pushing manufacturers into making bows that are faster, lighter, more ergonomic and that are easier to shoot. Some of the feats of engineering in bow technology have been staggering, but now compound bows seem to be reaching a plateau. Maybe, but probably not say a lot of engineers. This investigation I did for Outdoor Life shows that the future of the bow is evolving.

My Cam & Company Interview for the Sportsmen’s Channel

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 5.35.56 PMJohn Popp and other incredible people at NRA News graciously had me on their TV show to talk about my book The Future of the Gun. You can see the 15-minute video by clicking here.

A Thoughtful Review

John R. Lott Jr, the author of More Guns, Less Crime gave a very thoughtful review of my book The Future of the Gun.

Did you know that during the American Revolution the colonists had rifles that were accurate up to 300 yards, but that the British troops’ rifles were only accurate up to 75 yards? That the Americans used long guns with rifling while the British guns were smoothbore? The British were used to fighting opponents on an open field, but this single advantage allowed American troops to pick off British troops from a long distance while keeping out of harms way.

Possibly the most interesting aspect of this point is that the fact that American colonists had these “more advanced” weapons made it possible for them to win the American Revolution.

If you ever wondered about the history of revolvers or semi-automatic handguns or the AR-15 and M16 rifles, this book provides a well done, quick-read resource.

However, the most interesting part of the book is future of guns — the explosion in technological innovation. For example, if you know how to play a computer game, the latest targeting systems can turn an amateur into a top long distance shooter. The ability of the government to control these technologies is extremely limited. My understanding is that if the right polymer is used and the barrel is kept very short, the plastic 3D printed guns can fire a number of rounds without a problem, though with a short barrel and no rifling accuracy is very poor. 3D metal printers can produce guns that look and function exactly the same as any gun that you can buy from a manufacturer. Still these are minor quibbles with what Miniter has written.

Beyond that there is a detailed discussion of the politics of gun control. The book quotes about how the term “assault weapons” was developed and how gun control groups consciously and cynically played on the American public’s misunderstanding of semi-automatic and automatic weapons alone justifies the price of the book. How gun control laws are being pushed through before anyone has a chance to read the bills should concern anyone who wants reasonable public policy.

There will be a lot of stories in this book that will inform even those who follow the gun debate closely.

The Rise of the Anti-Freedom Billionaires

Those on the left say they abhor big money’s corrupting influence in politics — until a leftist billionaire starts trying to sway public opinion. That’s okay with them, because, you know, old George Soros really isn’t creepy at all — he’s just a grandfatherly figure who gives like Santa Claus. And the same goes for Warren Buffett and Michael Bloomberg — their billions are okay, too. All Bloomberg wants is for the rest of us to give up tobacco, big gulps, and guns.

Now Bill Gates has joined on the great lefty-billionaire good-guy list. Gates is donating $1 million to push a voter initiative in Washington State that would require “universal background checks” for all would-be gun buyers. If it passes, all gun sales will have to be vetted by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

“Universal background checks” has a nice poll-tested ring to it, but in reality it will really just make it more expensive and burdensome for private Americans to do what they’ve always done: trade, buy, and sell guns among themselves. According to the Gates initiative, a gun owner can’t sell a Winchester Model 70 rifle to a friend without running the transfer through a licensed gun dealer and paying fees and taxes. A gun owner on a skeet range also can’t say, “Hey Bob, can I try a round with your Beretta? I’m thinking about buying a Beretta.” He can’t buy the gun because, unless he runs off to a licensed dealer and does a lot of paperwork and pays fees, it would be illegal.

The 18-page law would make illegal so much of what law-abiding gun owners do as they shoot socially and go hunting that the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs now opposes Initiative 594. But one thing it won’t do is stop criminals from getting guns. The criminals aren’t going to say, “Gee whiz, now we can’t buy stolen guns any more or get some guy with a clean record to buy us a gun, because you know that’s illegal.”

If the billionaires really want to do something to help stop the mentally disturbed (who commit most of the mass murders) from getting guns, they could … click here to see the rest of my article at NationalReview.com.

This Sheriff Sees the Public as Partners in the Fight Against Criminals

clarkeSometimes someone steps onto the public stage with such moral clarity that people stop and really listen. When this person is an elected official who defies stereotypes to deliver a politically incorrect message, people begin to question what they’ve been told.

Pretty soon, journalists begin sticking their pens in such a savant, sure he or she must be full of hot air. Politicians with opposing positions throw mud, certain it’ll stick. But when the person doesn’t deflate and the political dirt won’t obstruct the message, the detractors step back. By contrast, this startlingly honest official can show them for what they really are.

Such is how those who would ban guns now see Sheriff David Clarke Jr. of Milwaukee County, Wis. Sheriff Clarke has decades of law enforcement experience in a large city—and he is a vocal defender of the Second Amendment.

Sheriff Clarke began speaking out about gun rights after he saw that the police were struggling to effectively protect the people of Milwaukee. The average response time for 9-1-1 calls in the city of Milwaukee had grown to nearly an hour.

“If people have to wait an hour for help, then they have to be able to protect themselves until the good guys arrive,” Clarke says.

Click here to read the rest of my article in America’s 1st Freedom.

My Latest Interview on Newsmax

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 10.22.41 AMI spent 10 minutes on Newsmax TV to talk about my book The Future of the Gun. We discussed so-called “smart guns” and the direction gun technology is taking as engineers learn to integrate other technologies into firearms. You can see the interview on YouTube by clicking here.

The Second Amendment’s Defining Moment

supreme courtIn 2008 I chatted with a silver-haired law school professor under the marble pillars of the U.S. Supreme Court building. He was very excited. The court was to about hear Heller v. D.C. The case would decide whether the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects an individual right to own and carry guns. He had 20 law students with him. He said anxiously, “When I put in the paperwork to get seats months ago I didn’t know we’d get to see one of the last unresolved constitutional questions debated.” He said this while looking at a line of people hoping to get seats that went down the block, around a corner and out of sight.

Months later, when the high court ruled 5-4 that the Second Amendment protects an individual right from government infringement, the media was paying attention. Many, however, are missing what’s happening now. The Second Amendment is having its defining moment in history. The decisions now percolating up to the Supreme Court are deciding what guns the Second Amendment covers, when requirements become infringements and more.

Gun-rights and gun-control groups understand that these court decisions illustrate how much elections matter, as federal judges are nominated by the president and voted on by the senate. However, two recent federal court decisions from judges appointed by former president Bill Clinton show how difficult these decisions can be to handicap.

In one just-decided case, California Senior U.S. District Court Judge Anthony W. Ishii found that “10-day waiting periods of Penal Code violate the Second Amendment” as applied to people who fall into certain classifications. He found this arbitrary wait time “burdens the Second Amendment rights of the plaintiffs.” (The decision can be read here.) This court decision orders the California Department of Justice to allow the “unobstructed release” of guns to those who pass a background check and possess a California license to carry a handgun, or who hold a Department of Justice-issued Certificate of Eligibility and already possess at least one firearm known to the state. Basically, it says if someone already legally has a gun in California the state can’t make that person wait 10 days for a second gun just because it wants to. If that sounds like common sense to you, you’re right, but common sense isn’t a given in the courts.

The rest of the ongoing battle over “assault weapons” and more is in my recent column at Forbes.com.