Language Discrimination

Bad news everyone. Studying Arabic is now grounds to be detained at the airport:

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A former college student who was detained for several hours at an airport after he was found carrying Arabic language flashcards had his bid to sue federal agents rejected by a federal appeals court.

Nicholas George sought to sue three Transportation Security Administration agents and two FBI agents over the August 2009 stop at Philadelphia International Airport, saying they violated his free speech rights and conducted an improper search and arrest based on the flashcards and a book critical of American policy in the Middle East.

A district judge rejected the agents’ assertion of immunity, but the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that ruling in a decision issued Tuesday.

George was returning from his home in a Philadelphia suburb to Pomona College in California, where he was studying Arabic, when TSA agents saw the words “bomb” and “terrorist” among his flashcards and called police. George was detained for nearly five hours, two of them in handcuffs in a city police station at the airport.

Obviously Mr. George was a terrorist. After all, who else would be carrying Arabic flash cards with words like “bomb” and “terrorist” printed on them? Well, besides somebody studying to become a military translator. Or somebody who has an invested interest in reading Arabic manuals on guerrilla warfare purely for curiosity’s sake. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) went bonkers when it first started but it’s rather sickening to think that we still have that horrible agency around even though it hasn’t prevented a single terrorist wannabe from boarding an airplane.

Upgrading My Reloading Setup

I’ve been reloading since I was a teenager. Since then I have been using the RCBS Rock Chucker I started out with for all metallic cartridge reloading. It’s a decent setup but it’s slow. I finally decided that I’m an adult and it’s time I stepped up my reloading operation. So I spent Christmas morning with my father setting up this bad boy:


I am now rocking a Hornady Lock-N-Load AP. Needless to say I’m looking forward to the decrease in reloading time.

Private Keys Must Remain Private

Public key cryptography is great. By handing people a public key they can encrypt message that only you, the holder of the private key, can decrypt. However, there is one consideration that should be obvious. The private key must remain private. Once put publish your private key for others to see anybody can decrypt messages encrypted with your public key. Sometimes the consequences of such a breach are minor but sometimes they result in money being stolen:

On Friday, Miller learned an important lesson. It was an experience that everyone should remember before they start moving their money into the digital currency.

While on air, Miller surprised Bloomberg anchors Adam Johnson and Trish Regan each with $20 worth of Bitcoin.

But as Johnson received the paper gift, he briefly exposed the QR code (see above). This act was effectively like sharing a bank account and PIN number.

Immediately, someone lifted the QR code and stole the $20.

Bitcoin utilizes public key cryptography. Public keys allow other people to send money to other users. Private keys allow people to withdraw Bitcoin from a wallet. If somebody else nabs your Bitcoin private key they have full access to your funds. So don’t do something stupid like hand your private key to somebody else or who it on television.

It’s not Wise to Disturb Elves

The Icelandic people are wiser than most other people. For example, in Iceland the threat of disturbing the local elven population is a good enough reason to halt a highway construction project:

Elf advocates in Iceland have joined forces with environmentalists to urge authorities to abandon a highway project that they claim will disturb elf habitat, including an elf church.

The project has been halted until the supreme court of Iceland rules on a case brought by a group known as Friends of Lava, who cite both the environmental impact and the detrimental effect on elf culture of the road project.

The group has regularly mobilised hundreds of people to block bulldozers building a direct route from the tip of the Álftanes peninsula, where the president has a property, to the Reykjavik suburb of Gardabaer.

Issues about Huldufolk (Icelandic for “hidden folk”) have affected planning decisions before, and the road and coastal administration has come up with a stock media response for elf inquiries, which states in part that “issues have been settled by delaying the construction project at a certain point while the elves living there have supposedly moved on”.

This is the first time elves have prevented or delayed construction projects in Iceland. I think the Icelandic people know that trespassing on the land of elves can only end in misery as the creatures are known for their mischief.

I have a deep interest in mythology and folklore. One of the reasons Iceland interests me is because the island still holds onto their myths and folklore. While blocking the construction of a highway because of elves may seem ridiculous to most people I find it quite charming. It demonstrates a deep connection with the past and the last, which is something I feel is lacking in most developed nations.

Rest in Peace Mikhail Kalashnikov


Today is a sad day. Mikhail Kalashnikov, the inventor of the AK-47, is now in Valhala forging weapons for the einherjar:

The inventor of the Kalashnikov assault rifle, Mikhail Kalashnikov, has died aged 94, Russian TV reports.

The BBC has posted an obituary. I really don’t have much else. I plan to remember him by taking shot of vodka in his honor tonight and taking my AK pattern rifle to the range this weekend.

Test Firing of Liberator in Japan

I that 3D printable firearms will destroy gun control. Once individuals are able to easily manufacture firearms from their homes it will be impossible for any government to restrict ownership. But beliefs and demonstrations are two different things. Today I have a demonstration of 3D printable firearms apparently skirting gun control laws. Japan isn’t know for being a weapon friendly island. Throughout Japanese history rulers have disarmed segments of the population. Disarming people took the form of sword hunts, which eventually concluded in the disarmament of the samurai in 1876. Today acquiring a firearm in Japan is extremely difficult [PDF]. Even possessing parts of a handgun can get you into legal trouble. So seeing a Liberator pistol being fired in Japan is pretty exciting:

My understanding of Japanese weapons laws leads me to believe that the video is showing an illegal act but I’m not entirely sure as the demonstrator was willing to show his face. Either way I think this thoroughly demonstrates the viability of producing 3D printable firearms in localities with strict gun control laws. Gun control advocates will be quick to point out that 3D printable firearms aren’t yet viable, which is true today. Tomorrow will be a different story. 3D printer technology is advancing rapidly and we will see affordable printers capable of manufacturing reliable firearms in the near future. After we reach that technological achievement gun control laws will be unenforceable and thus gun control will be dead.

Minimum Wage and the Corporate Welfare State

There has been a lot of talk recently about raising the state mandated minimum wage again. One side argues that many workers don’t make enough money to live off of and the other side argues that raising minimum wage will cause another jump in unemployment. Both sides are actually right on this issue. But both sides are also missing part of the picture. Why are many employers paying employees so little? The answer is quite simple. Low wages are subsidized by the state through its welfare programs:

Wal-Mart’s low wages have led to full-time employees seeking public assistance. These are not the 47 percent, lazy, unmotivated bums. Rather, these are people working physical, often difficult jobs. They receive $2.66 billion in government help each year (including $1 billion in healthcare assistance). That works out to about $5,815 per worker. And about $420,000 per store. But the federal and state aid varies widely; in Wisconsin, a study found that it was at least $904,542 a year per store. (See the accompanying chart.)

The author advocates raising the minimum wage to reduce welfare spending. That doesn’t address the root of the problem, which is the state introducing distortions in the market. Wal-Mart doesn’t just receive benefits in the form of welfare benefits being provided to its employees by the state. It has also received benefits in the form of tax deductions, tax credits, road improvements, water service improvements, and a slew of other deals. These deals give Wal-Mart an advantage over its competitors. When the competitors, unable to compete with a subsidized giant like Wal-Mart, goes out of business the Wal-Mart employees also lose leverage in wage negotiations. One of the most effective tools that employees have when negotiating for better wages is the ability to go somewhere else. When there is less competition in a market there are less places for employees to go and that weakens their position.

So long as the root of the problem, subsidies, isn’t address no governmental decree in regards to wages is going to make a damn bit of good. Minimum wage laws effect everybody. A large corporation like Wal-Mart can absorb paying employees more money but many of its smaller competitors cannot. Raising the minimum wage can therefore further reduce competition and therefore often act as another subsidy to the largest corporations. Taking away Wal-Mart’s subsidies, on the other hand, will take away its major advantages over competitors. Once this advantage is removed Wal-Mart’s competitors will have a better chance surviving and that will increase competition. With more competition in the market employees will have one of the most effective tools for fighting for better working conditions.

Most Import Documents in History Saved from Destruction

Our species came very close to losing the most important documents in human history. I’m talking about the writings of Malaclypse the Younger, the founder of the most important religion in human history, Discordianism. Fortunately disaster has been averted and these writings were not only saved but posted online:

Groucho Gandhi writes, “‘Crackpot Historian’ Adam Gorightly (the current Keeper of the Sacred Chao) saved the archives of Discordian co-founder Greg “Malaclypse the Younger” Hill from the literal dustbin of history by swooping up the Hill archives as they were about to be tossed in the dumpster. Srsly!

“Why is this important? Greg Hill (thru Discordianism) created the first proto-zine, The Principia Discordia, and the precursor to the Creative Commons licensing scheme, first known as KopyLeft, All Rites Reversed. Now Adam Gorightly is taking the Discordian Archives and releasing them.”

These works are graciously posted on Historia Discordia. As a Discordian Pope I urge you to go forth and read. Or don’t. Whatever you do it’s cool.