Scott Bradford: Off on a Tangent

Random Photos

Posted March 15, 2014, 4:55 p.m.

So here I am, returning from yet another unplanned Off on a Tangent hiatus . . . which, of course, happened right after I said I would be trying to be more active on the site in 2014. Go figure. Well, during that time (and even for a while before), I’ve still been thinking, following the news, snapping photos, and working on other projects. I’ve also managed to have two separate colds so far this year, which hopefully is not a sign of things to come, but did contribute to my laxness here.

What other projects have I been working on? In addition to my normal day job, I continue to volunteer with Saint Veronica Catholic Church as lead of the RCIA program (through which adult converts study to become Catholics), and Melissa and I also represent the parish on the Arlington Diocese committee of Parish Ecumenical and Interreligious Representatives (a group charged with trying to foster friendship and understanding between the Catholic Church, non-Catholic Christian communities, and non-Christian religious communities). Just last weekend, the group visited Beth El Hebrew Congregation—a Jewish synagogue associated with the Reform movement—for Shabbat services and an enlightening question-and-answer session with Rabbi Isserow.

Melissa and I also spent a lot of time over the last few months implementing a newly redesigned web site for our parish (as contractors), and I’ve been hard at work on the next version of Off on a Tangent (hopefully coming soon), and I’m also laying the groundwork for some other projects that I’ll be sharing more information about as I get them out of the embryonic stage. So don’t take a silent web site as a sign of idleness!

Anyway, in lieu of a long description of what I’ve been doing for the last two months or so, here, have some random photos. continued… →

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Posted in Life, Photos

What To Do About Crimea?

Posted March 15, 2014, 1:41 p.m.

I have watched with interest as the Russian military, under orders from Russian President Vladimir Putin (United Russia), has invaded and occupied the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine. This is reminiscent of when Putin’s forces entered South Ossetia in Georgia back in 2008. Around that time, former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA), then the Republican candidate for President, said that he considered Putin to be our greatest geopolitical foe. President Barack Obama (D) and a pliant media ridiculed him mercilessly for this . . . but who’s laughing now?

Anyway, back then it was not crystal clear who the ‘bad guy’ was in the South Ossetian war. Many South Ossetians have been clamoring for political autonomy for decades, which has been denied them by the Georgian government despite repeated independence referendums. There has been a long string of flare-ups in the region, which culminated when Georgian forces invaded South Ossetia in an attempt to reclaim political control. After an incredibly fast build-up of Russian forces, they too entered South Ossetia and effectively went to war with Georgia—including bombing Georgian targets elsewhere in the country.

The European Union brokered a cease fire between Russia and Georgia in a matter of weeks, and Russian forces had mostly withdrawn from the region by the early days of 2009. During the war, South Ossetian authorities and militias engaged in ethnic cleansing against their ethnic Georgian neighbors, expelling over 190,000, although all but 30,000 have since been allowed to return.

This time, in the Ukraine, violence began as simple civil unrest between Ukrainians who desire closer ties with the European Union, and those who desire instead closer ties with Russia. (Of course I am oversimplifying things for the sake of keeping this article at a readable length.) These protests continued to flare-up, becoming violent at times, with pro-European groups demanding the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (Party of Regions)—who fell solidly on the pro-Russian side. continued… →

Posted in Articles, Opinion

Election 2013: Reviewing My Performance

Posted January 23, 2014, 7:42 p.m.

The 2013 general election is now long over, and the declared winners of each race have each taken office and started leaving their official marks on the Virginia political scene. The Off on a Tangent election coverage went on through the evening of November 5, and then continued [as time permitted] until the final race concluded more than a month later on December 18. Overall, I am satisfied with my performance—both in my predictions and in my live coverage—but there was, as always, room for improvement. This post serves as a [very belated] look at what went well, and what didn’t, in Off on a Tangent’s 2013 election coverage.

Making the Calls: Successes and a Debacle

I am never afraid to make a call when the data supports making one (even when the major media outlets haven’t yet), but I am also very careful and will not make a call if the data doesn’t support it (even when the major media outlets already have). In 2004, I called the race for President George W. Bush (R) long before anybody in the media had the guts to. They were still overly gun-shy after the botched Florida call in 2000. However, in the 2012 presidential election, I refused to call North Dakota for former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA)—even though most major media outlets already had—because the polls there were not even closed.

On this election night, many major media outlets called the race for now-Governor Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) around 10:00 p.m. I was reluctant to do so at that time for a number of reasons. The reported numbers coming from the Virginia State Board of Elections showed a nearly-even race between McAuliffe and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R-VA), and the yet-unreported precincts were split three-ways between those that tend strongly Republican, those that tend strongly Democratic, and those that are true ‘toss-ups.’ There were strong indications that McAuliffe was going to win, and I said as much in my live update at 10:05 p.m., but I didn’t have enough confidence to make a formal call. continued… →

A Tale of Two Concealed Handgun Permits

Posted January 15, 2014, 6:17 p.m.

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, concealed handgun permits (CHP’s) are issued for five-year terms. If you want one, the application process is relatively simple . . . although tedious. You have to be at least twenty-one years old, fill out a standard application form (PDF link), get it notarized, and attach the required proof of competence with a handgun (like a certificate from an NRA training course, a copy of a previous CHP, evidence of law enforcement or military training, etc.). You also have to provide a list of previous names and addresses (if applicable) and pay a fee. The cost is limited by the Code of Virginia to a maximum of fifty dollars—a fixed ten dollar court fee, a local law enforcement fee of up-to thirty-five dollars, and a State Police fee of up-to five dollars.

Once all of that is done, you submit all of your information to your local circuit court clerk. Their office reviews it and then sends copies to the local law enforcement agency and the Virginia State Police so they can each run the necessary background checks. Within forty-five days, assuming that you pass the background checks and aren’t disqualified for some reason, the court is required to issue your permit by mail. Once you receive it, you are licensed to exercise your constitutional right to keep and bear arms for five years (except in certain places where firearms are prohibited). You can add your Second Amendment license to your pile of other civil rights licenses. No, wait, sorry. You don’t need a license for any of your other civil rights.

Anyway . . . after your five years are up, you have to repeat the process all over again. Although you now get to check the ‘renewal’ box in the standard application form, and you get to use a copy of your previous CHP as your proof of competence, everything else is exactly the same. continued… →

Licensing Update (Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Posted January 4, 2014, 10:58 p.m.

Back in 2008 with the launch of the twentieth version of this web site, I decided to license the vast majority of content on the site under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. This license gives you pretty much open-ended permission to make copies of my works . . . as long as you attribute them to me, don’t use them to make money, and don’t change them. I occasionally post particular works under less restrictive Creative Commons licenses as well.

On November 25, 2013, Creative Commons introduced the new 4.0 version of their licenses. The updated licenses are clearer and easier to read, no longer require nation-specific ‘porting,’ clarify the attribution requirements, and establish a thirty-day window for correction of license violations.

Creative Commons LicenseAfter reviewing the changes, I have decided to ‘upgrade’ and re-license the content here on Off on a Tangent under the new suite of licenses. Effective January 4, 2014, almost all of the content on the site is now licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. The few content items that were licensed under other Creative Commons licenses are also now re-licensed under the equivalent 4.0 versions.

I use Creative Commons licenses (and support Creative Commons with financial donations from time-to-time) because I believe in a robust copyright system that balances the rights of content creators against the rights of consumers. The U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 8) states pretty clearly that copyright was meant to be limited, and that its primary purpose was not just to safeguard profits, but to promote arts and science: “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries. . . . “

Today, however, copyright terms are so long that they are practically unlimited and everybody seems to think that the purpose is only to protect creators’ rights to profit endlessly from their works. Profit is good, and people are less likely to create new works if they can’t expect to make money from them . . . but fair use is good too, and so is a robust and growing public domain (which requires a reasonable ‘end date’ on copyright protection). A healthy copyright system would strike a better balance between these competing goods.


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Nothing is so efficacious in appeasing God, when His wrath is kindled; nothing so effectually delays or averts the punishments prepared for the wicked as the prayers of men. — The Catholic Church, The Catechism of the Council of Trent

Scott Bradford has been building web sites and using them to say what he thinks since 1995, which tended to get him in trouble with power-tripping assistant principals at the time. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from George Mason University, but has spent most of his career (so far) working on public- and private-sector web sites. He is not a member of any political party, and brands himself an ‘independent constitutional conservative.’ In addition to holding down a day job and blogging about challenging subjects like politics, religion, and technology, Scott is also a devout Catholic, gun-owner, bike rider, and music lover with a wife, two cats, and a dog.

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