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:

Orange County Jailbreak

Monday, January 25th, 2016

Three prisoners slipped behind some beds at Central Men’s Jail in Santa Ana and disappeared into a hole in the wall — and these guys sound hardcore:

Jonathan Tieu, 20, Bac Duong, 43, and Hossein Nayeri, 37, were discovered missing about 9 p.m. Friday when Orange County sheriff’s jail personnel conducting a nightly head count came up three short. A search of the facility turned up a makeshift rope made from bedsheets and spare cloth, a rectangular hole cut in a steel screen behind some beds and a misplaced coil of razor wire on the roof.

OC Jailbreak Cut steel screen in Mod F Tank

Authorities are investigating the possibility that a fight that occurred about 8 p.m. Friday at the jail was staged deliberately to delay the head count to help hide the escape. The men bypassed three security checkpoints undetected. Authorities don’t know where they got the tools to help in the escape or what they were.

OC Jailbreak Roof area of CMJ

Nayeri had been held without bond since September 2014 on charges of kidnapping, torture, aggravated mayhem and burglary. Nayeri and three other men are accused of kidnapping a California marijuana dispensary owner in 2012.

They drove the dispensary owner to a desert spot where they believed he had hidden money and then severed his penis, authorities said.

After the crime, Nayeri fled the U.S. to his native Iran, where he remained for several months. He was arrested in Prague, Czech Republic, in November 2014 while changing flights from Iran to Spain to visit family.

Duong was being held without bond since last month on charges including attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, shooting at an inhabited dwelling and being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm. His criminal history also includes multiple convictions for possessing and selling methamphetamine and avoiding arrest and burglary.

Tieu had been held in lieu of $1 million bond since October 2013 on charges of murder, attempted murder and shooting at an inhabited dwelling. His case is believed to be gang-related.

OC Jailbreak Jonathan Tieu, Hossein Nayeri and Bac Duong

Why We Picture Bombs As Round Black Balls with a Burning Wick

Sunday, January 24th, 2016

The iconic bomb entered the public imagination after the Civil War:

Ignited, uncontained gunpowder will burn, but for it to explode the gas pressure needed to be built up in a sealed container. Often, a spherical one made the most sense, since the shape was aerodynamic and could be made of two halves with one seal, instead of a box with many sides.

They were also dark, being made of cast iron or other metals, both to ensure sturdiness and to maximize shrapnel after the explosion. The only thing inaccurate about the cartoon depiction of bombs is the string wick, says Kelly. “Fuses were made of wood and they’d be drilled down through the center, and they’d be packed very solidly with gunpowder that would burn at a predictable rate,” he says, “The idea of a string fuse coming out of the bomb is really a fantasy.”

If the Civil War was the last gunpowder war, given the sheer number of Americans involved, it seems likely that many would have some familiarity with an explosive of that kind. But another aspect of American culture helped to popularize that image — editorial cartoons.

By the mid-19th century, many papers across the country featured editorial cartoons. The most famous was probably Harper’s Weekly, often considered the most widely read publication during the Civil War. Their illustrations featured caricatures of politicians, depictions of the treatment of slaves, and of course, battles. In one cartoon, a smoking bomb with the face of who appears to be General Scott is lobbed toward Jefferson Davis. The bomb is round with a skinny, string wick sticking out of the top. Comics like that made it pretty clear just what a bomb looked like.

In 1867, Alfred Nobel invented dynamite, which Kelly said was quickly and widely “publicized at that time as the weapon of the people,” something easily accessible and easy to make at home. It seems that spherical gunpowder bombs would be on their way out. But another widely publicized event may have sealed their images in the minds of the populace. In 1886, a labor demonstration in Chicago’s Haymarket Square was thrown into riot by a dynamite bomb, but one that reportedly resembled a stereotypical mortar bomb. According to the New York Times accounts of the riots, a group of men arrived on a wagon, and from it “something rose up into the air, carrying with it a slender tail of fire.”

Three days after the bombing, police searched the house of anarchist Louis Lingg, who was suspected to have made the bombs, and found two spherical dynamite bombs with metal casings. Given that dynamite is enough of an explosive, the metal casings were likely not used to hold in pressure, but to cause damage as metal shards flew into the crowd. The prosecution used these bombs as evidence in the trial of eight suspects, and testified that they matched the chemical makeup of the bombs used in the Haymarket riot.

HACAT_V35

The trial was heavily covered in the press, and again Harper’s Weekly provided images. In one, a bearded anarchist is seen standing over a spherical bomb, and in another Lady Justice holds one labeled “law” over a panicked crowd. It didn’t matter if they were gunpowder bombs or not. The image was the same.

HACAT_V30

The Protector

Saturday, January 23rd, 2016

Chemistry lecturer Syed Hamid Husain opened fire on militants who attacked Bacha Khan university in Pakistan, allowing his students to escape the massacre:

One student said: ‘We saw three terrorists shouting “Allah is great!” and rushing towards the stairs of our department.

‘One student jumped out of the classroom through the window. We never saw him get up.’

He described seeing Husain holding a pistol and firing at the attackers, adding: Then we saw him fall down and as the terrorists entered the (registrar) office we ran away.’

Geology student Zahoor Ahmed said Husain had warned him not to leave the building after the first shots were fired.

‘He was holding a pistol in his hand,’ he said. ‘Then I saw a bullet hit him. I saw two militants were firing. I ran inside and then managed to flee by jumping over the back wall.’

‘They fired directly at’ the professor, sociology student Muhammad Daud said, describing Husain as ‘a real gentleman and a respectable teacher’.

Students and university officials paid tribute to the slain academic, saying he had been nicknamed ‘The Protector’ even before his death.

‘He would always help the students and he was the one who knew all their secrets because they would share all their problems with him,’ said 22-year-old geology student Waqar Ali. ‘He was referred to by students as “The Protector”.’

An Idle Class That Can Only Dream

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

Within the context of how life is lived in this country these days, we’re not going to stop massacres from happening, James Howard Kunstler argues:

And what is that context? A nation physically arranged on-the-ground to produce maximum loneliness, arranged economically to produce maximum anxiety, and disposed socially to produce maximum alienation. Really, everything in the once vaunted American way of life slouches in the direction of depression, rage, violence, and death.

This begs the question about guns. I believe it should be harder to buy guns. I believe certain weapons-of-war, such as assault rifles, should not be sold in the civilian market. But I also believe that the evolution of our Deep State — the collusion of a corrupt corporate oligarchy with an overbearing police and surveillance apparatus — is such a threat to liberty and decency that the public needs to be armed in defense of it. The Deep State needs to worry about the citizens it is fucking with.

The laws on gun sales range from ridiculously lax in many states to onerous in a few. Yet the most stringent, Connecticut, (rated “A” by the Brady Campaign org), was the site of the most horrific massacre of recent times so far, the 2012 Sandy Hook School shooting. The handgun law in New York City is the most extreme in the nation — limiting possession only to police and a few other very special categories of citizens. But it took the “stop-and-frisk” policy to really shake the weapons out of the gang-banging demographic. And now that Mayor Bill deBlasio has deemed that “racist,” gang-banging murders are going up again.

Which leads to a consideration that there is already such a fantastic arsenal of weapons loose in this country that attempts to regulate them would be an exercise in futility — it would only stimulate brisker underground trafficking in the existing supply.

What concerns me more than the gun issue per se is the extraordinary violence-saturated, pornified culture of young men driven crazy by failure, loneliness, grievance, and anger. More and more, there are no parameters for the normal expression of masculine behavior in America — for instance, taking pride in doing something well, or becoming a good candidate for marriage. The lower classes have almost no vocational domain for the normal enactments of manhood, and one of the few left is the army, where they are overtly trained to be killers.

Much of what used to be the working class is now an idle class that can only dream of what it means to be a man and they are bombarded with the most sordid pre-packaged media dreams in the form of video games based on homicide, the narcissistic power fantasies of movies, TV, and professional sports, and the frustrating tauntings of free porn. The last thing they’re able to do is form families. All of this operates in conditions where there are no normal models of male authority, especially fathers and bosses, to regulate the impulse control of young men — and teach them to regulate it themselves.

The physical setting of American life composed of a failing suburban sprawl pattern for daily living — the perfect set-up for making community impossible — obliterates the secondary layer of socialization beyond the family. This is life in the strip-mall wilderness of our country, which has gotten to be mostly of where people live. Imagine a society without families and real communities and wave your flag over that.

Free Blonde Swedish Girls

Saturday, January 16th, 2016

This is not about just refugees from Syria’s civil war, Henry Porter notes:

At a feeding station run by Greek volunteers in the shadow of Mytilene’s castle, I discovered young Moroccans, Tunisians, Pakistanis, Nigerians, Ethiopians, and one man from Mali. An entire generation seems to be on the move. You are struck by their good nature and the resourcefulness that propels them across continents. There is also acute loneliness on the long road into Europe. I met a charming Afghan man of about 20 who was giving half his free meal to a gang of friendly dogs. He told me he did this every day simply for the company.

Demographics, poverty, and communications are driving economic migration. According to the research group Youthpolicy.org, young people aged between 15 and 24 constitute about 20 percent of the populations in Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen.

Because many are poor, they cannot marry — half of men in the Middle East between the ages of 25 and 29 are single. They have little money and few ties; however, they do have the Internet on their phones (an indispensable item on the road), and they know about the wealth and opportunities of Europe, and these are what put them in a dinghy, even if they have never seen the sea before. But there are other enticements — one people-smuggling Web site is reported to have promised speedy asylum procedures in Sweden, “free blonde Swedish girls,” and accommodation in a luxury hotel.

History is Fundamentally Tragic

Friday, January 15th, 2016

“We have forgotten,” French prime minister Manuel Valls let slip to foreign-newspaper reporters, “that history is fundamentally tragic.”

Such fatalism is extremely rare among modern European politicians. Ever since the European movement began, in the 1940s, spearheaded by Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet, the basic operating principle of the project and its leaders has been an almost cultish optimism. For at least two generations, Europe’s highly educated, Financial Times-reading mandarins assumed they could inoculate the Continent against every possible contingency with ingenious layers of bureaucracy and legislation.

But Valls came right out with it: history cannot be defied by rules and regulations, or by institutionalized wishful thinking. His implication, I believe, was that France and its European Union partners needed to think anew, and act anew.

It is worth recalling the original optimism of the European movement after World War II, here articulated in the spring of 1948:

We must proclaim the mission and design of a United Europe, whose moral conception will win the respect and gratitude of mankind and whose physical strength will be such that none will dare molest her tranquil sway … I hope to see a Europe where men and women of every country will think of being European as of belonging to their native land, and wherever they go in this wide domain will truly feel “here I am at home.”

These were the words of Winston Churchill speaking at the inaugural Congress of Europe in The Hague, and they may surprise his Euro-skeptic heirs in the British Conservative Party, some of whom favor what is known as “Brexit” — Britain’s exit from the E.U., in order to reclaim control over laws made in Brussels and to end the right of people from E.U. member states to work in the U.K.

Wild Life in Jamaica

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers’ wild life has included some unpleasant adventures:

The low point in my relationship with Jamaica came fairly recently.

In 2007 I won the Crafoord Prize from the Swedish Royal Society. It was worth $500,000. When it was announced in the local Jamaican newspaper, I knew immediately that I had a brand new problem on the island. Although the paper had gotten most of the details wrong, including having me as a Jamaican who had migrated to the U.S. to study lizards, it got the sum of money I had been awarded correct.

[...]

Suddenly I had the uncomfortable feeling that I was not alone in my bedroom.

[...]

Then I saw that one had a machete and the other a long knife. Ah ohh, I said to myself, bending back slightly – I know what this is, this is an armed robbery. Simultaneously I drew a long straight strong encased Brazilian sixinch blade knife from the right side of my pants, blade pointed toward the right testicle. As they spotted my knife their faces went from terror-inducing to terror-expressing, and they just managed to escape my room before I could corner either. In fact, I went straight at the cutlass man since he was the more vulnerable, within two feet of him he could do no more than slap me on my back, while I could slash him to death. The other was more “problematic.”

I had never thought about this possibility in more than fifteen years living there. My house lay at the end of a long dirt driveway off of a one-way lane to the main road, some half a kilometer below. Since, as it turned out, they were both local boys, it hardly seemed credible (in retrospect) that I was meant to survive the robbery. They could not say, “Well, den, Marse Bob, see you in the square tomorrow.” Also it is a well-known fact of human psychology that the longer someone holds you under control, the crueler they become and the likelier to indulge in “the final solution.” I always tell people, especially women under sexual attack, counter-attack at once and make a big noise to attract people – do not submit, and for God’s sake do not be taken captive. Attack and scream to draw people, otherwise matters only get worse. Begging for mercy often merely excites the aggression it seeks to avert.

Once they scurried out the front door, I locked it behind them. Then the true terror began. Since I had not come running out with a gun to blast a few shots at them, they surmised correctly that I was unarmed. It also turned out that I only had the knife because someone had very foolishly locked my personal fighting machete into the tool shed out back. Now the men wanted to re-enter the house. They began with soft knocking and absurd entreaties such as, “Let us in, we are the police.”

Read the whole story.

Brussels Lockdown

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

Nowhere are the shock and change in Europe after the attacks better represented than in Brussels, which went into total lockdown:

I arrived in Brussels on the Eurostar at night to find only homeless people and camouflaged military on the streets. It was as if the Belgian Army were policing an insurgency in some distant, indigent colony, not guarding a city that also happens to serve as the de facto capital of the European Union. I dined in the empty Le Petit Boxeur, which I mention because it was the only restaurant I found open. I walked the spookily deserted streets, visited the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, which announced in a panicky notice on the door that it was closed because of the THREAT LEVEL FOUR, and toured the feared Molenbeek neighborhood, where business seemed to be going on pretty much as usual, with all the cafés open as well as the stores selling North African clothes and exotic fruit and vegetables.

This is exactly what ISIS wants: to shut non-Muslim Europe down, to close the schools and places of culture and have people trembling in their beds, which, to be fair, was what ordinary Belgians were saying. I watched a debate on local TV in which mystified citizens questioned an official on the exact difference between Threat Level Three and Threat Level Four. He had to confess that he had no idea.

After 24 hours, I had had enough and decided to leave. At the station, there were more armed police and soldiers than passengers, and the train to Paris was patrolled by five police officers with automatic weapons, which was understandable, given that this was the line where a heroic intervention by three unarmed Americans, including two servicemen, and a British businessman prevented a terrorist attack last summer.

It is about sex, not power, after all

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

In the 1975 bestseller Against Our Will, feminist Susan Brownmiller asserted that rape is about power, not sex — only that’s simply not true:

In the ensuing 45 years, there has been no significant empirical research to support her claim. Yet, almost everyone repeats it.

In examining eight years of FBI data on 250,000 rapes and other sexual assaults, one factor stands head-and-shoulders above the others: the age range of the victims. Herein lies the key to unlocking the mystery of the offender’s motivation.

Social science has demonstrated a strong relationship between age and sexual attractiveness. Heterosexual men are sexually attracted to young women, while homosexual men are attracted to young men. The age preference explains why adult film stars, sex workers, exotic dancers as well as glamour models are often young, and why their earnings decline as they age.

Studying the ages of victims, therefore, provides an opportunity to examine sexual motivation. If rapists are primarily motivated by the desire for power and domination, then one would expect them to prefer middle-aged, career women. However, if rapists primarily desire sex, then one would expect them to prefer young women and men. Our research demonstrates that offenders almost always attack the young (see the figure below). The percentage of female victims who are over 50 is close to zero. Similarly, in male prisons, where women are extremely scarce, heterosexual men target the youngest inmates.

Rape Victim Age