Terrorist Ritual

Friday, June 24th, 2016

ISIS has found a reliable way to span the gap between online support and physical action that isn’t easy to detect, John Robb suggests:

They accomplished this by building a formalized ritual that combines initiation (a self-planned attack) and a public pledge (a formal lifelong, irrevocable pledge of fealty to the Caliph), and acknowledgement (redemption, acceptance, and honor). It appears to work. For example, here’s what Omar Mateen said on one of his telephone conversations. Note how important the pledge is to Omar in this public record of the call.

Orlando Police Dispatcher (OD): Emergency 911, this is being recorded.

Shooter (OM): In the name of God the Merciful, the beneficial [in Arabic]

OD: What?

OM: Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God [in Arabic]. I let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings.

OD: What’s your name?

OM: My name is I pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State.

OD: Ok, What’s your name?

OM: I pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may God protect him [Arabic], on behalf of the Islamic State.

OD: Alright, where are you at?

OM: In Orlando.

OD: Where in Orlando?

[End of call]

The same process was seen a day later outside Paris by an attacker who killed two senior members of the police.

With this methodology in place, ISIS has the ability to bypass the security procedures that were effective against attacks from the remnants al Qaeda, and strike US and EU targets.

Anarchy in the U.S.A.

Saturday, June 18th, 2016

The United States has been plagued before by immigrant terrorism, Steve Sailer notes, and completely solved the problem:

How? Largely by selective deportations of radical immigrants and cutting back on future immigration.

Immigrant terrorists committed many of the most heinous crimes during the anarchism plague of the first third of the 20th century. Anarchists are largely forgotten today, but they were a spectacular annoyance a century ago.

Even Marxists despised anarchists as childish show-offs who only provoked bourgeois reaction with their vicious antics. When communists and anarchists nominally teamed up during the Spanish Civil War of the late 1930s, Joseph Stalin devoted far more energy to murdering his anarchist allies than to fighting the right.

Anarchist terrorists in the U.S. tended to be leftist atheists from either Catholic or Orthodox countries in Southern or Eastern Europe. Shooting heads of state or blowing up banks was known as “propaganda of the deed.”

For example, in 1901 President William McKinley was assassinated by Leon Czolgosz, a second-generation Pole. The last hurrah for anarchist terrorists may have been Giuseppe Zangara’s attack at an appearance by president-elect Franklin Roosevelt in 1933, which wound up killing Chicago mayor Anton Cermak.

The peak of anarchist terrorism in America came soon after WWI in an era of broad nervous breakdown across this country.

In 1919, followers of the Italian immigrant anarchist Luigi Galleani mailed three dozen letter bombs to prominent citizens. When the housekeeper of a U.S. senator had her hands blown off, an alert postal worker recognized that the bomb was the same as sixteen packages that had been set aside in his office due to insufficient postage.

The thwarted cheapskates then set off bigger bombs outside the homes of eight political figures, including Woodrow Wilson’s Attorney General, A. Mitchell Palmer, where an Italian terrorist managed to blow himself up. (One of his body parts landed on the doorstep of Palmer’s neighbors Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.) Palmer eventually responded by deporting 556 leftists, such as Emma Goldman and her former boyfriend Alexander Berkman, who had tried to assassinate industrialist Henry Clay Frick.

Then, in 1920, a couple of Italian-immigrant followers of Galleani, Sacco and Vanzetti, were arrested for murdering two workers in an armed robbery in the Boston area. The innocence of Sacco and Vanzetti became an immense cause célèbre for progressive intellectuals in the 1920s, although, as in so many similar recent fiascos, Sacco was likely the killer and Vanzetti his accomplice.

In September 1920, a huge bomb went off outside J.P. Morgan’s bank on Wall Street, probably as vengeance for the arrest of Sacco and Vanzetti. It killed three dozen civilians, mostly messenger boys and the like.

The Republicans, hugely victorious in the 1920 election, responded to these outrages with immigration restriction laws in 1921 and 1924.

The relevant question is: Did this democratic response drive Italian-Americans and Polish-Americans to new levels of violence, as so many now assume that any attempt to trim the levels of Muslim immigration would lead to even more Muslim domestic terrorism?

No, not really.

In fact, following this assertion of citizen authority over immigration policy, America calmed down rather quickly. The ’20s were less agitated than the teens, and Depression America was remarkably stable. The thirty years from the apparent assassination attempt by an anarchist on FDR in 1933 to JFK’s murder by a communist in 1963 were among the most cohesive in American history.

A country that had appeared to be coming apart at the seams in 1919–20 went on to enjoy world-historical triumphs, with rapid assimilation to American norms by immigrants who were no longer reinforced by newcomers. Rather than answering with rage, Italians and Poles largely seemed to respond to this assertion of leadership by founding stock Americans as right and fitting.

Perhaps this historical analogy is an overly optimistic guide for a contemporary America dealing with a different set of immigrant groups.

But if we don’t try, how will we ever know?

You can’t stop future Orlandos, but you can reduce the chances

Friday, June 17th, 2016

Ed West is pro-gun control, but he comes from “the most heavily populated corner of one of the most crowded islands on earth”:

The average American is still very, very unlikely to be killed by Islamic terrorists and in an extremely violent nation the attention given to it sometimes seems odd. Democrats like to cite this fact, including the statistic being paraded until yesterday that toddlers have killed more people with guns this year than Islamic terrorists (alas, no longer), but for some reason they don’t like to get too analytical when it comes to violent crime in the US. Even with all those guns, white America is not that much more violent than the European average; but African-Americans have a violent crime rate that is off the scale in first world terms, and the daily toll of death in places like Chicago and Baltimore makes the fear of Islamic terrorism sometimes look absurdly overblown.

Having said that, three of the seven worst mass shootings of the past 25 years have been carried out by Islamic supremacists, which is quite something, considering America is just 0.6 per cent Muslim.

Not only is America’s Muslim population relative small, but compared to western Europe, they tend on average to be well-integrated, middle class and have a positive view of their country. Islam in America is mostly a success story, because immigration from the Muslim world has tended to be selective.

But the less discriminating immigration becomes, the more likely future events such as Orlando are to reoccur, especially when America welcomes supporters of the Taliban, such as the Orlando killer’s father. There is no need for the United States to block migration from the Muslim world, but it would be in their interests to be more selective, and to choose those who have a worldview similar to the American average.

Yet westerners seem blissfully unaware of how unusual their tolerance is in the world, and how at risk they put it with open borders; migration from societies which are largely intolerant is likely to produce more intolerant migrants, and increase the (admittedly small) probability of individuals who take that intolerance to extreme ends.

Compare America’s Muslim story with Britain and France, countries which have attracted large-scale, much more unskilled populations predominantly from North Africa and South Asia. Both Muslim populations – 5 per cent in Britain, and 9 per cent in France – have high levels of unemployment and ghettoisation, even if we could add a thousand caveats about complex demographics (Indian and Iranian Muslims are very different, on average, to Pakistani or Somali). Meanwhile surveys consistently show non-trivial levels of support for terrorism, and widespread views on homosexuality and Israel that would make your Democrat-voting maiden aunt go pale.

If America had had the equivalent levels of migration as Britain and France it would mean a Muslim population of between 15 and 25 million, many living in isolated areas of high unemployment, and with 10,000 American citizens fighting for Isis. This can be said in a reasoned and non-hateful way, but a country with as many guns as America really, really doesn’t want to allow mass migration from the Muslim world on the scale Europe has. No country can stop things like Orlando happening. But it can take reasonable precautions to reduce the odds.

Prison and Mental Illness

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

Prisons have become a substitute for state-run mental hospitals, German Lopez argues, but Scott Alexander offers a deeper explanation:

Lopez seems to be working off a model where there is a population of mentally ill people who can’t make it in normal society, and so will inevitably end up either in a long-term mental hospital or a prison. Since mental hospitals are good places where people get treatment, and prisons are bad places where people get punishment, we should “catch” these mentally ill people before they end up in prison so that they can be in nice hospitals instead.

Needless to say I disagree with pretty much every part of this assessment.

Between all of this talk of “the tragic collapse of America’s public mental health system” and “the US’s largely gutted mental health system” and “the country pulled back and defunded its mental health system” and so on, you might get the impression that less money is being spent on mental health. This is not really true. The share of GDP devoted to mental health is the same as it was in 1971, although this looks worse if you compare it to rising costs in other areas of health care. There hasn’t been a “gutting of the mental health system”, there’s been a shift from long-term state-run mental hospitals to community care. It hasn’t “left the criminal justice system as the only system that can respond to people with mental illness”, it helped create an alternate and less restrictive system of outpatient psychiatry. In my opinion, this was a positive development, and the share of mentally ill people in prison is not an argument against it. Let me explain.

“Mentally ill people in prison” conjures up this lurid image of psychos who snap and kill their families, followed by “well, what did you expect leaving a person like that on the street?” The reality is more mundane. There are lots of mentally ill people in prison because there are lots of mentally ill people everywhere. Remember, 20% of the population qualifies as mentally ill in one sense or another. If a depressed guy sells some marijuana and gets caught, he is now a “mentally ill person in prison”.

There are disproportionately many mentally ill people in prison partly because people’s illnesses lead them to commit crimes, but mostly because some of the factors correlated with mental illness are the same factors correlated with criminality. Poverty? Check. Neighborhood effects? Check. Genetic load? Check. Education? Check. IQ? Check. Broken families? Check. Drug abuse? Definitely check. The factors that gave that pot dealer depression might be the same factors that drove him to sell pot instead of becoming an astronaut. Treating the depression might help a little, but it’s not guaranteed to keep him on the good side of the law.

In my model, the overwhelming majority of mentally ill people can live okay lives outside of any institution, hopefully receiving community care if they want it. If they commit crimes they will go to prison just like anyone else; if not, we should hardly be clamoring to bring back the often-horrifying state-run mental hospitals and lock them up there.


What about that graph? It’s very suggestive. You see a sudden drop in the number of people in state mental hospitals. Then you see a corresponding sudden rise in the number of people in prison. It looks like there’s some sort of Law Of Conservation Of Institutionalization. Coincidence?

Yes. Absolutely. It is 100% a coincidence. Studies show that the majority of people let out of institutions during the deinstitutionalization process were not violent and that the rate of violent crime committed by the mentally ill did not change with deinstitutionalization. Even if we take the “15% of inmates are severely mentally ill” factoid at face value, that would mean that the severely mentally ill could explain at most 15%-ish of the big jump in prison population in the 1980s. The big jump in prison population in the 1980s was caused by the drug war and by people Getting Tough On Crime. Stop dragging the mentally ill into this.

Lopez himself wrote a nice piece on how most mentally ill people are not violent, and another nice piece on how most people in prison are there for violent offenses. But put these together, and you get that most mentally ill people do not end up in prison. Most of the people who got out of the mental hospitals during deinstitutionalization are getting by. Some of them are homeless, and that’s bad. But if you want to solve homelessness among the mentally ill, build homeless shelters, not state-run long-term mental hospitals.

Bike Thief Lassoed

Monday, June 13th, 2016

Today’s feel-good story comes from a Wal-Mart parking lot in southern Oregon:

“I hear a lady yelling, ‘Stop him he stole my bike!’” Robert Borba tells NBC5 News.

The champion bull rider could tell the man was getting away, so he got backup.

“Grabbed Old Grey from the trailer and went for him.”

Rob Roque was landscaping at the big box store when it happened, snapping the pictures of the cowboy hero in action.

Cowboy with Roped Bike Theif

“He did it so well, I thought man he must be in a rodeo or something, it was perfect,” Roque says.

“I just roped him and the rope went down around his feet and I just rode off like I would if I’d roped a cow or something by myself,” Borba explains.

Borba held the man until Eagle Point police arrived, and then headed back to the farm to tend to his horses. And while his kids are proud to call him papa, he says he was just doing the right thing.

“Poor gals bike that could have been her only transportation,” Borba says, “stealing ain’t right so I figured get him stopped you know?”

Officers arrested the suspect, Victorino Sanchez, on a theft charge. He’s being held at the Jackson County Jail.

Insanity is not subtle

Saturday, June 11th, 2016

Insanity is not subtle, Bruce Charlton explains:

I spent a year in the 1980s working as a psychiatrist participating in the admissions rota where I would cover all the medical work necessary in a large hospital overnight or at weekends.

Quite a few of the patients were brought in by the police, by ordinary police officers — who had been called to some incident and recognized that the person involved was ‘mad not bad’, and so brought them in for psychiatric evaluation instead of putting them into the cells.

The police were never wrong, in my experience. The people they brought in were always crazy — it was just a matter of sorting out what kind of crazy. In other words, an ordinary policeman was able to tell when somebody was insane — it was a matter of common sense (plus relevant experience).

The Color of Crime

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

Edwin S. Rubenstein describes the color of crime:

The evidence suggests that if there is police racial bias in arrests it is negligible. Victim and witness surveys show that police arrest violent criminals in close proportion to the rates at which criminals of different races commit violent crimes.

There are dramatic race differences in crime rates. Asians have the lowest rates, followed by whites, and then Hispanics. Blacks have notably high crime rates. This pattern holds true for virtually all crime categories and for virtually all age groups.

In 2013, a black was six times more likely than a non-black to commit murder, and 12 times more likely to murder someone of another race than to be murdered by someone of another race.

In 2013, of the approximately 660,000 crimes of interracial violence that involved blacks and whites, blacks were the perpetrators 85 percent of the time. This meant a black person was 27 times more likely to attack a white person than vice versa. A Hispanic was eight times more likely to attack a white person than vice versa.

In 2014 in New York City, a black was 31 times more likely than a white to be arrested for murder, and a Hispanic was 12.4 times more likely. For the crime of “shooting” — defined as firing a bullet that hits someone — a black was 98.4 times more likely than a white to be arrested, and a Hispanic was 23.6 times more likely.

If New York City were all white, the murder rate would drop by 91 percent, the robbery rate by 81 percent, and the shootings rate by 97 percent.

In an all-white Chicago, murder would decline 90 percent, rape by 81 percent, and robbery by 90 percent.

In 2015, a black person was 2.45 times more likely than a white person to be shot and killed by the police. A Hispanic person was 1.21 times more likely. These figures are well within what would be expected given race differences in crime rates and likelihood to resist arrest.

In 2015, police killings of blacks accounted for approximately 4 percent of homicides of blacks. Police killings of unarmed blacks accounted for approximately 0.6 percent of homicides of blacks. The overwhelming majority of black homicide victims (93 percent from 1980 to 2008) were killed by blacks.

Dade County Shootout

Monday, May 16th, 2016

Massad Ayoob shares some lessons learned from the most studied gunfight of the Twentieth Century, 30 years later:

The killer who shot first had a Ruger Mini-14 .223 rifle, which proved to be a terribly efficient force multiplier. He used this gun to inflict every serious wound suffered by the good guys. This incident, probably more than any other, gave impetus to make the .223 patrol rifle the almost universal standard issue for police patrol that it is today. Only two of the agents even had a shotgun, and only one was able to deploy it.

At that time, only the agents assigned to FBI SWAT had semiautomatic pistols; the remainder were armed with revolvers. Two of the good guys, McNeill and Hanlon, were permanently injured while they were hopelessly trying to reload their empty revolvers after having sustained wounds to their gun hands or arms. By the early 1990s, most American police had switched to higher capacity, faster-reloading service pistols from the traditional service revolver.

Early in the fight, a bullet from Dove’s 9mm pistol pierced the opposing rifleman’s arm and into his chest, slicing an artery and inflicting a “fatal, but not immediately neutralizing” hit when it stopped short of his heart. It was after that, that he inflicted most of the deadly damage. FBI subsequently adopted a standard requirement that their handgun ammo penetrate a minimum of 12” into muscle tissue-simulating ballistic gelatin, a standard most law enforcement and many lawfully armed citizens subsequently adopted.

Ben Grogan, said to be the best shot in the approximately 200-person Miami FBI office, would likely have been voted “most likely to dominate the gunfight.” Unfortunately, he was extremely myopic and lost his glasses in the car-ramming crash that preceded the shootout, and this undoubtedly hampered his performance. He died at the scene. Prior to that, this writer had occasionally shot with uncorrected vision; for the last 30 years, I’ve made a point of shooting at least one qualification course a year that way.


Friday, May 6th, 2016

Gun violence is usually measured in deaths and injuries, but the ShotSpotter system measures shots fired:

Last year, there were 165,531 separate gunshots recorded in 62 different urban municipalities nationwide, including places such as San Francisco, Washington, D.C., St. Louis and Canton, according to ShotSpotter, the company behind a technology that listens for gunfire’s acoustic signature and reports it to authorities.

Even that eye-popping number captures only a fraction of the bullets fired each year. It does not include data from rural areas or the nation’s two largest cities — Los Angeles does not use ShotSpotter and New York City was excluded from the 2015 tally because it did not start until mid-year.

The ShotSpotter system also covers just a sliver of each city that it is in, usually higher-crime neighborhoods. ShotSpotter’s total coverage was 173 square miles last year. And the devices tend to not hear gunshots fired indoors.

Still, the data begins to provide a fuller picture of the nation’s rampant gunfire.

Last year, those 165,531 gunshots were divided among 54,699 different incidents — an average of 150 gunfire incidents every day.

The busiest month for gunfire was May.

The busiest day was Dec. 25, Christmas.

And if you want to avoid getting shot, it’s best to lie low from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. on Saturdays. That was the busiest hour of the week for gunfire. The slowest hour was 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Mondays.


Doleac, at the University of Virginia, and Purdue professor Jillian Carr used ShotSpotter data for Washington to determine how the city’s juvenile curfew affected gun violence.

The ShotSpotter devices were rolled out first in Anacostia in 2006, then Southeast and Northeast neighborhoods and finally north of downtown. The researchers examined gunshots detected from 2006 to 2013.

What they found was surprising: The city’s curfew actually increased the number of gunfire incidents by 150% in the hour immediately after it went into effect.

The researchers focused on the one-hour period when the city’s curfew changed each year, going from midnight every night in July and August to 11 p.m. on weeknights the rest of the year.

During that hour switch-over, they found, gunfire spiked. The researchers theorized that this was because law-abiding juveniles were most likely to follow the curfew. They got off the streets. That resulted in fewer innocent witnesses or bystanders in public, potentially leading to more lawlessness and gunfire.

In another study, Doleac and Carr found that ShotSpotter data showed evidence of “severe underreporting” of gun violence when compared to the traditional metrics of homicides or 911 calls.

In Washington, just 1 in 8 gunfire incidents led to a 911 call for “shots fired” in the covered areas.

“It’s clear most people don’t bother to call 911,” Doleac said.

In Washington, there was one reported homicide for every 181 gunfire incidents.

In Oakland, Calif., the other city that researchers studied, it was one homicide for every 62 gunshot incidents.

They noted with interest that it appears Oakland’s gunfire was at least twice as deadly as Washington’s gunfire. Although the researchers couldn’t come up with the reasons behind this difference (Were Washington’s gunmen poor shots? Did victims in Oakland get to the hospital more slowly?), the difference points to how measuring gun violence with homicides is problematic.

Harvey’s Casino

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

In the early morning hours of August 26, 1980, a team of men wearing white jumpsuits rolled an IBM copy machine into Harvey’s Resort Hotel and Casino in Stateline, Nevada, near Lake Tahoe — only it wasn’t a copy machine:

So began one of the most unusual cases in [FBI] history.

A note left with the bomb—titled STERN WARNING TO THE MANAGEMENT AND BOMB SQUAD—began ominously: “Do not move or tilt this bomb, because the mechanism controlling the detonators in it will set it off at a movement of less than .01 of the open end Ricter scale.”

“Do not try to take it apart,” the note went on. “The flathead screws are also attached to triggers and as much as ¼ to ¾ of a turn will cause an explosion. …This bomb is so sensitive that the slightest movement either inside or outside will cause it to explode. This bomb can never be dismantled or disarmed without causing an explosion. Not even by the creator.”

An investigator examines the Harvey’s bomb, which contained nearly 1,000 pounds of dynamite and a variety of triggering mechanisms that made it virtually undefeatable.

The “creator,” we later discovered, was 59-year-old John Birges, Sr.—who wanted $3 million in cash in return for supplying directions to disconnect two of the bomb’s three automatic timers so it could be moved to a remote area before exploding.

The device—two steel boxes stacked one atop the other—contained nearly 1,000 pounds of dynamite. Inside the resort, Birges made sure the bomb was exactly level, then armed it using at least eight triggering mechanisms.

Harvey’s Bomb

“We had never seen anything quite like it,” said retired Special Agent Chris Ronay, an explosives examiner who was called to the scene along with other experts.

After being discovered, the bomb was photographed, dusted for fingerprints, X-rayed, and studied. Finally, more than 30 hours later, a plan was agreed upon: if the two boxes could be severed using a shaped charge of C4 explosive, it might disconnect the detonator wiring from the dynamite.

Harvey’s and other nearby casinos in Lake Tahoe were evacuated, and on the afternoon of August 27, the shaped charge was remotely detonated.

The plan was the best one available at the time, but it didn’t work. The bomb exploded, creating a five-story crater in the hotel. “Looking up from ground level,” Ronay said, “you could see TV sets swinging on electric cords and toilets hanging on by pipes. Debris was everywhere.” Fortunately, because of the evacuation, no one was killed or injured.

Harvey’s Bomb Blast

John Birges, Sr. (1922–1996), was a Hungarian immigrant from Clovis, California. He flew for the German Luftwaffe during World War II. He was captured and sentenced to 25 years of hard labor in a Russian gulag. Eight years into his sentence in the gulag, he escaped by blowing it up. He emigrated to the U.S. and built a successful landscaping business, but his addiction to gambling led to his losing a large amount of money and prompted the bomb plot. His gambling debt and experience with explosives were primary pieces of evidence linking him to the Lake Tahoe bombing.

Birges was eventually arrested based on a tip. One of his sons had revealed to his then-girlfriend that his father had placed a bomb in Harvey’s. After the two broke up, she was on a date with another man when they heard about a reward for information, and she informed her new boyfriend about Birges. This man then called the FBI.

(Hat tip to Mangan, who cited Wikipedia.)

Search and Seizure

Sunday, April 10th, 2016

Gordon Tullock discusses search and seizure:

Our constitution provides that a warrant must be obtained before search or seizure except in a limited set of situations that are not relevant to our present
concerns. This is the national constitution, but many states have similar provisions in their constitutions. My discussion will be limited to the national document.

The original constitution had a massive loophole in the prohibition of non-warrant search and seizure. Customs officers may search anyone in the general vicinity of the docks. Since the federal government had little jurisdiction in the interior, and mainly lived on customs duties, it seems unlikely that the search and seizure provision seriously limited the powers of the government.

In any event, tax collection has always been given special privileges in the courts. When I was in law school we read a case in which the judge said that taxes were necessary to support the government, and in particular pay the costs of courts. Thus strict protection of the taxpayer was not necessary. Anyone who has dealt with the Internal Revenue Service or the local real estate assessment procedure will be able to testify to that from experience.

Until a little after the turn of the 20th century, the federal restriction had little effect. If the federal officer undertook a search far from the docks without a warrant he was guilty of a minor crime, but there was no other consequence. It was easy to get warrants so the problem rarely arose. The Supreme Court, however, changed that by ruling that the “fruit of the poisoned tree” i.e. evidence obtained improperly, could not be used in court. Since this applied only to federal cases, and they were rare, the matter was unimportant.

In the days just before I was drafted and sent to Europe, my teacher of criminal procedure, an old fashioned liberal, expressed discontent with the ruling. He said that if a policeman conducted an illegal search, then the prosecuting attorney had two potential customers, the criminal and the policeman, but the criminal “should not profit from the constable error”. This was my opinion, and I think very widely held.

The argument on the other side was that the prosecuting attorney would probably not prosecute the policeman, and hence illegal searches would not be deterred. There was no empirical evidence on the point, but state courts dealt with most crimes, so the matter was of little importance until the late 50s and the Mapp case. In this case, the Supreme Court held that the “fruit of the poisoned tree” precedent applied also to state courts. Some of the states had, of course, been applying similar doctrine on the basis of their own constitutions, but this decision made it nationwide.

It is interesting that at about the same time that the courts began imposing strict rules on searching people suspected of crimes, searches of all sorts of completely innocent persons, suspected of no crime or misdemeanor suddenly became routine. This originally came from a burst of aircraft hijackings, but there were also some cases of bombs on aircraft. Originally, the searches were manual, and would have led to immediate dismissal of the charges if they had been used on people suspected of other crimes without “reasonable cause”.

The use of electronic procedures rather than physical search has now become common, but physical searches are still used in some cases after the electronic search. These special searches are commoner for baggage than the person, but I have had the attendants reach into my pockets when the electronic system detects metal that is suspicious. It is interesting that these searches, particularly, in the early days when the search was manual, sometimes turned up drugs. The ACLU objected to this although they did not object to the original search. In any event, in spite of the constitutional ruling, almost everyone has been searched, first electronically and then manually if the electronic search shows metal. In the early days it was all manual.

The practice has spread. Most courts follow the same procedure for everyone who enters. Many stores have electronic search apparatus on their doors, mainly to detect shoplifters. The student restaurant and bookstore in my university in my university are equipped to electronically search everyone who goes in or out, of the library. I should emphasize that I do not object to these searches, but I do object to the searches of genuine criminals being restricted. Note that the only cases in which searches of people suspected of crimes get to court are those in which they police find evidence in their search, and it is then thrown out. I suppose that a person searched without a warrant or the circumstances in which the courts permit a police search, and in which no evidence was found could sue the police. Such cases are rare to non-existent, and I suspect that juries would be sympathetic to the police if one were brought.


Long ago, in my book “The Logic of the Law”, I suggested that the police be permitted to search freely, but be compelled to pay a fee to the person searched equivalent to the inconvenience imposed. This would solve the whole problem. The police in order to conserve funds would only search with good reason, and the people searched would either be convicted of a crime, or reimbursed. No one but criminals would be hurt. This simple Pareto optimal solution, would I a sure, be held be held unconstitutional. To quote Mr. Pickwick, “The law is a fool and an ass.”

Drug Treatment Before WWII

Saturday, April 9th, 2016

Before World War II, neither England nor the United States had large numbers of drug addicts:

They used different methods, but both were far more successful than we are today.

Beginning with England before the war, anyone who was addicted could get a certificate of addiction, and using it he could go the a doctor for drugs by prescription. The doctor was theoretically treating him with the intention of his eventually stopping drug consumption. The addict, however, could normally find a shady doctor who would simply give him as much as he wanted. The addict was a highly profitable patient since he paid his fee without putting the doctor to much trouble.

The drugs purchased on the prescription would be cheaper than the smuggled product and of greater purity. Thus there would be no market for the illegal drugs and the illegal drug trade would (and did) disappear. There would be no one who could profit from addicting any one, and hence no trade. The total number of certified addicts in the whole of England was around 100; most of them were medical personnel who had succumbed to temptation to sample their own supplies. In essence the procedure sacrificed the existing addicts to prevent the creation of more.

The United States followed a different and more expensive method. Drug addiction was a crime and any one arrested for it was sentenced to one of two special institutions maintained by the federal government. They were called hospitals, but were actually rather unpleasant prisons. The addict would spend about a year being gradually dried out by slowly decreasing doses. This was the standard cure method then and was very unpleasant. At the end of the cure the former addict would be released. He would have lost his physical addiction, but not his physiological one. Most of them simply stopped taking drugs at this time.

The police would watch the former addicts and if they saw signs of addiction, would arrest and test them. I am told that addicts can be detected by observation. In any event there is no great harm in being tested if the former addict is genuinely “former”. He would have lost his contacts with his suppliers while in detention, and the suppliers would know that he was being watched and likely to once again cease to be a customer shortly after they resumed the relationship. Under the circumstances, the drug trade was small, and unprofitable. The Mafia stayed away. The total number of addicts was a small part of the number at present. In both nations the “drug problem” was minor compared to today.

Adopting these procedures today in the United States would be possible, but I think very unpopular. The English procedure would involve certifying literally millions of people as addicts. The illegal trade would shrink or die, but there would be millions of certified addicts at large. Gradually they would either die of or stop their addiction voluntarily. It would, however, take a long time. The total number of addicts would be less than today, but they would be more conspicuous. My guess is that politically the procedure would fail.

The system is no longer working in England due to a peculiar by product of the National Health Service. Doctors in the service are not paid by the call. They have a list of clients and provide medical services for them as needed without specific reimbursement per time. With this fee system, the drug addict is an unprofitable customer. The doctor must give him prescriptions fairly frequently and is paid only by the year he has him on his list. Under the circumstances the doctor is likely to actually try to cure him by gradually reducing his dose. Thus there is a market for the illegal supply of drugs and a trade is gradually developing.

Attempting to apply the pre-war methods to the United States would require the building of many, many specialized prisons and training medical personnel. The cost would be immense and it seems most unlikely that it would even be feasible. Thus although these two methods worked before the war, we must either let people freely take drugs (the course I favor) or continue our present ineffective methods or turn to something new.

A government program that actually works

Monday, April 4th, 2016

The New York Times seems to have found a government program that actually worksmass round-ups of low-level Latino gangbangers:

Traditionally, the LAPD had focused on arresting the “kingpins,” the leaders of the gangs. Kill the head and the body will die! This assumed, however, that there were a few really bad criminals and a lot of marginal kids who would straighten up and fly right once the malign influence of the kingpin was gone. Instead, removing the leadership just led to wars to become leaders.

So, LAPD started using federal RICO indictments to round up all the foot soldiers in massive military-like operations and then packing them off to federal penitentiaries in places like Arkansas, where there was no infrastructure for Latino prison gangs like the Mexican Mafia to control the streets of California from inside the joint in the middle of the country.

The Pinochet Effect

Saturday, April 2nd, 2016

Pinochet’s difficulties came not from his ostensible crimes, but from something far worse:

He favored capitalism and proved that it worked. He will never be forgiven.

Gordon Tullock did not consider Pinochet — or Milosevic — nice, but did not believe that their crimes fully explained their “legal” difficulties:

Pinochet, although not the beau ideal of the Chilean people, was not particularly unpopular during his reign. I was in Chile for a few days and saw him drive by. I presume his car was armored, but he had only motorcyclists as an escort. I was in Jerusalem when Clinton visited it and saw him also drive by. His security precautions were a high multiple of those of Pinochet. Pinochet did not find it necessary to close off the street in front of his house. He finally put his continuance in office up to a vote, and although he lost, he didn’t do badly. His policies are not only being adopted in Europe by nominally socialistic, governments, but his successors in Chile have mainly continued them.

Now all of this does not indicate that the specific charges against him are false, indeed I think they are mainly true. But I also think that these charges have little to do with his legal difficulties. In my opinion, it is his general image as a rightist that causes the trouble. No person on the left has been similarly been charged even though many of them have committed similar acts. To take but one example, Castro was in Spain when the Spanish magistrate tried to extradite Pinochet. The Chilean government promptly requested the extradition of Castro on exactly the same charges. The newspapers reported this at the time, but it was quickly forgotten. Since Castro makes Pinochet look like a piker, this would at first seem surprising. But Castro has what may be the most socialistic (and unsuccessful) government in the world. His immunity is not surprising if the actual gravamen of the charge is not killing or torturing, but successful capitalizing.

The newspapers sometimes publish lists of potential defendants in these trials. Interestingly, none of them (except Pol Pot to be discussed below) are on the left. Wulfe in Germany is a particularly interesting case. He was in change of the East German equivalent of the Gestapo. The deal entered into by Kohl to get the Russians to leave not only involved a large sum of money to build officers quarters for the Officers who left, it also provided that no one could be convicted on the basis of activity which was legal at the time.


In the various areas that are now considered east Europe, the situation is similar. Former members of the Communist apparatus are not prosecuted. Indeed many of them have been elected to positions of power in such places as Poland and Serbia. The United States and its allies who prohibited similar developments in Germany and Japan after the war, made no attempt to keep politicians in their more recent enemy regimes from high positions in the successors. The mere fact that a man was involved in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, or pushing the boat people out to sea off Vietnam is not regarded with anywhere near the revulsion given a simple guard in a German Concentration Camp.


Milosevic is another victim of the same phenomenon. He was in fact an elected official, but in a government which is now perceived as rightist. He is far from a nice man, but he did permit an opposition to exist and hold demonstrations. They had newspapers that did face difficulties, but still existed. It is possible to argue that Serbia was as democratic as Chicago.

Milosevic did not start the ethnic cleansing in former Yugoslavia, although he participated. He and some of his officials are the only ones threatened with criminal prosecution for it. Interestingly Holbrook in his book “To End A War” mentions his effort to get the Croats to advance into territory inhabited by Serbs in full knowledge that they would carry out ethnic cleansing without the slightest signs of feeling guilty. Nor has he been criticized for it.

Returning to South America, a minor but significant case of the violation of amnesties for rightist occurred in Argentina. During the dirty war both sides committed fairly numerous crimes. It was ended by a treaty in which the military were given an amnesty for their fairly numerous killings. For reasons that have always rather puzzled me, they did not announce the names of people they killed, and hence the term “disappearances”. In some cases these people had children, and the military arranged for them to be adopted. At the present day this set of acts which, given what had happened to their parents, seems more or less virtuous, is being called kidnapping and the amnesty did not specifically cover kidnapping. As a result a number of officers who would have been quite safe if they had simply killed the children are in danger of imprisonment.

Derren Brown’s “Russian Scam”

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

In the follow-up to his interview with Tim Ferriss, Derek Sivers mentions Derren Brown’s “Russian scam” video, which is just baffling: