Attacking Fences

From an article on the cocaine trade between Mexico and the U.S.:

"They erect this fence," he said, "only to go out there a few days later and discover that these guys have a catapult, and they're flinging hundred-pound bales of marijuana over to the other side." He paused and looked at me for a second. "A catapult," he repeated. "We've got the best fence money can buy, and they counter us with a 2,500-year-old technology."

Posted on July 10, 2012 at 4:33 AM • 65 Comments

Comments

JBBJuly 10, 2012 4:50 AM

This is known as 'Forgetting the true goal and solving the wrong problem' -- or perhaps lying about which goal they're pursuing, but let's assume Hanlon's Razor applies.

AutolykosJuly 10, 2012 5:04 AM

Nah, it's "forgetting an obvious solution because it isn't fancy enough". The whole purpose of a catapult is shooting stuff over walls and fences (or sometimes into walls and fences).

MattHJuly 10, 2012 6:05 AM

To be fair, fences have been around longer than catapults. Catapults are practically new-fangled technology in comparison.

Z.LozinskiJuly 10, 2012 6:31 AM

Someone is going think: let's create an exclusion zone around the fence to stop the catapult problem. I wonder if they will do the research on range and throw weight ...

Jack BlackjackJuly 10, 2012 6:48 AM

What about this for a solution:

1. Legalize all drugs and make them be easily bought on farmacies.

2. Divert all funds used to repress drug trade to offer comprehensive treatment to addicts (and not only now-illicit, drug addicts, but alcohol addicts &c too).

3. Stop being silly and making adults putting stuff in their bodies a crime. It didn't work too well in the Prohibition times, it's not working now.

Mike BJuly 10, 2012 7:02 AM

Addressing the actual point of the article the fence did it job in that it required the smugglers to use a catapult. Fences, like biometrics and mechanical locks, don't work in isolation. They simply increase the visibility of certain actions. You still need autonomous beings to then tend to those actions. For example border fences paired with armed drones would be far more effective. The only reason we are "losing" the war on drug smuggling is because we are unable or unwilling to take the steps necessary to deter it. Mock it as you will, the Berlin Wall was extremely effective in its intended function because the guards there would shoot you on sight.

See the Big PictureJuly 10, 2012 7:12 AM

During the Space Race, the United States spent $30 million developing a pen that would write in zero gravity. Do you know what the Russians did?

They used pencils.

Sometimes the simple solutions defeat the complicated ones...

vasiliy pupkinJuly 10, 2012 7:13 AM

@Jack Blackjack
I'd like add #4:
"Increase prison time by 3 times for any crime/felony committed under the influence of any drug legalized by suggestion #1".
Yeah, # 3 is right, but adults should take responsibility when putting stuff in their bodies for illegal actions committed thereafter against other 'bodies'. Sounds reasonable?
Same applied for having guns.

bobJuly 10, 2012 7:27 AM

@Jack Blackjack: Outstanding idea.

Basically every $ spent to "fight the war on drugs" [which, at 120 years and counting makes the Titanic look like a roaring success story, due to the fact that there are more illegal drug users in the US today than the ENTIRE POPULATION OF THE COUNTRY back when they first started outlawing opium back in the 1880s] goes straight into the pockets of drug dealers because on the rare occasion when the anti-drug forces DO manage to stop a substantial shipment, all it does is increase the street value of whats left, thereby inexorably and unavoidably raising the profit margins and making MORE people want to deal drugs.

They search prisoners in prisons regularly to catch illicit narcotics. IN PRISON! like with all 6 sides of the person blocked by solid walls. If they cant keep it out of JAILS with a 12-1 occupant:guard ratio and redundant walls, fences and universal cameras; how could they even begin to think about keeping it out of the country at large. Dont answer that, I know how they would do it - see "Escape from New York"; except wrap the whole country in fences - not better.

If you REALLY want to F#$K over the mexican drug gangs, legalize drugs.

It takes about the same technology and effort to make cocaine as it does ketchup. Imagine how little crime there would be if people were hooked on ketchup. You can walk into Wendy's and just take some ketchup and they probably wouldnt say anything. Try that with cocaine.

With all the drug-addled sleeping it off in opium dens [or a modern equivalent] the unemployment issue would go away.

With $300,000,000,000 not being spent on DEA at the federal level, similar amounts from the states, and 1,000,000 not incarcerated we could fix all the streets and bridges - by paving them with titanium. Or fix the national debt [not merely the defecit - the DEBT!] in a decade.

And that doesnt even count the revenue from taxes on legal drugs and the money not going to Mexico and Columbia - you want to whine about jobs being sent overseas, THIS is the sacred cow you should adopt!

As a side benefit, this would also let you sing the last line of the Star Spangled Banner ["land of the free, home of the brave" for those who've lost sight of the reason for existence of the country] out loud again without looking sheepish or embarrassed.

bobJuly 10, 2012 7:35 AM

@ See the Big Picture: No.

The "space pen" was a pre-existing commerical product adopted by NASA because it elegantly solved a problem, namely how do you keep graphite (the electrically conductive byproduct of lead pencils) from drifting around and short circuiting mission critical systems in a weightless environment.

The russians have pencils. They also have their spaceships regularly catch fire.

btw, NASA didnt invent Tang either.

bobJuly 10, 2012 7:53 AM

@Mike B: The Berlin Wall [and the rest of the Iron Curtain of which it was a small part] was a filter that kept lazy people in Eastern Europe and made sure that the West got only the smartest and most motivated. But it was only a valve that reduced flow; even on penalty of death people still tried, and succeeded, in escapeing.

And calling it a "fence" is like calling Hiroshima an "explosion". Land mines, electrification, guard towers, floodlights, night vision [presumably not at the same time], antitank obstacles, ground sensors, randomized patrols, underwater barriers, constant churn of guards to prevent bribery or conspiracy, checkpoints, miles of "no mans land" to get thru - the actual fence is only a small part of a big system.

More importantly it had a psychological effect causing the people to throw out the government and replace it with something that had [more of] their own welfare in mind.

So - since the mission of the fence was to keep the people who put up the fence in power and luxury by keeping enough peons in the county to support them - it failed.

JonadabJuly 10, 2012 7:57 AM

Fences and walls are only effective if they are manned. This fact is extremely obvious if you think about it for two minutes.

If it hadn't been a catapult, it would've been a ladder or a ramp or jackleg scaffolding or some other simple and obvious solution.

The land border between the US and Mexico is a thousand miles long. As such, it's impractical (and highly uneconomic) to defend.

If we could figure out how to repair the chaos that is Mexico, we could defend a much shorter border to the south of it. But it's not obvious how we would go about fixing Mexico even if they wanted our help, and I'm not sure they do.

It's a difficult problem.

TSJuly 10, 2012 7:59 AM

@Z.Lozinski

"Someone is going think: let's create an exclusion zone around the fence to stop the catapult problem."

The catapult *is* the solution to the exclusion zone. It's much easier to back up a truck with a conveyor and just push the drugs over the fence, but the exclusion zone with video surveillance prevents this.

So like medieval attackers, they back up beyond the range of the archers and set up catapults.

The only solution to this is to take out the enemy siege engines... and I don't think the US would want to use predator drones to attack targets in Mexico, that probably wouldn't go down very well.

kingsnakeJuly 10, 2012 8:09 AM

Bob, our spaceships seemed to have problems at about the same rate, despite the presence of $30 million Bics ...

McGeheeJuly 10, 2012 8:23 AM

2. Divert all funds used to repress drug trade to offer comprehensive treatment to addicts (and not only now-illicit, drug addicts, but alcohol addicts &c too).

3. Stop being silly and making adults putting stuff in their bodies a crime. It didn't work too well in the Prohibition times, it's not working now.

So instead we should be even sillier and enable adults who put stuff in their bodies raid our wallets for their treatment, since they won't be paying for it themselves -- they having spent all their money to bcome addicted in the first place.

There's nothing libertarian about advocating socialized medicine, even if it's "only" for drug addicts. If you must insist on giving them free treatment, they can at least pay for it by breaking rocks, making license plates, or picking up roadside trash.

Clive RobinsonJuly 10, 2012 8:38 AM

@ Bob

With regards pencils it would help your argument if you could show that the russians used "graphit" pencils (which they did not)

So as I've pointed out befor the graphite argument is a non starter.

So once again the Russians used "china graph" pencils which have a core made of a high density wax with an inert mineral colourant that is not conductive.

It actualy turns out that NASA did use "engineers propelling pencils" which at that time did use graphite, and as far as I'm aware it never caused electrical problems. One possible reason was good insulation. NASA were aware of a significant condensation problem in the capsules (people breath out and sweat over half their fluid intake which with thhree men would be around six pints of water into the capsual every day for seven days which is over 5 (UK) gallons...).

WinterJuly 10, 2012 8:50 AM

@McGehee
"So instead we should be even sillier and enable adults who put stuff in their bodies raid our wallets for their treatment, since they won't be paying for it themselves -- they having spent all their money to bcome addicted in the first place."

We have the proposed system here in the Netherlands. We have less junkies, less problems etc. And we have a functioning socialized health care system that is way cheaper than the USA's not socialized health care system.

And when drug are legalized, they get cheap. You can get addicted and still have enough money to live on.

They actually supplied free heroine to addicts in Switzerland. The former junkies got a normal life and even got a job.

If you think the TSA claims are outlandish. Those of the War On Drug are delusional.

WallyJuly 10, 2012 9:44 AM

@Bob: I've noticed that, unlike their ketchup, Wendy's is particularly stingy with their cocaine.

jacobJuly 10, 2012 10:01 AM

Oh that is funny. Engineers are working right now to keep the drones from being hijacked. Watch one get taken out by a flying bale of pot going over the fence. Trebuchet anyone? ;)

FredJuly 10, 2012 10:32 AM

They are using a 2500 year old technology because a fence is a 3000 year old technology

TanukiJuly 10, 2012 10:43 AM

If not a catapult, then someone will just dig a smuggletunnel or ten, as currently done by the Arabs to get stuff into the Gaza strip past the israeli blockade.

John SchillingJuly 10, 2012 11:33 AM

The catapult was discovered in a few days, no?

Fences - most walls, even - are not meant to be impenetrable barriers. They are meant to increase the cost to the attacker and to increase the visibility of the attacker. The latter allows the deployment of countermeasures that increase the cost to the attacker still further; it isn't clear from the article whether or not the catapultiers were arrested.

But if you can force the attacker to build a new onager for each attack, where before they would just have to hire a mule, that probably counts as a win for the fence.

WaelJuly 10, 2012 12:10 PM

Expression evolution:
"Show me a 100 foot wall, and I'll show you a 101-foot ladder"
Has now evolved to:
"Show me a hundred foot fence, and I'll show you a 100-pound Marijuana-shooting catapult"

Decaf: Remove caffeine
Defang: remove fangs (from a snake maybe)
Detox: Remove toxins
But no!!! In Security, Defence does not mean remove a fence. It means erect a fence. How confusing!

Matt AJuly 10, 2012 12:15 PM

This sounds like a good piece of situational crime prevention. It has:

  • Increased the risks of offending: a catapult large enough to throw 50kg bags is probably large enough to see from, e.g, a helicopter, thus increasing the chances of getting caught.
  • Increased the effort of offending: that catapult needed to be bought or made and it needs to be transported, set up, disguised and dismantled every time it's used. It cost money to build and it will cost money to build another one when the government seizes it, burns it down or blows it up.

That the offenders adapted to the fence should have been (and probably was) anticipated. The important thing is that making offending more difficult will either dissuade some offenders, make them commit fewer offences or make them less successful. The key is to balance the money you spend on prevention with the benefits you get in reduced offending. So it might now make sense to put up two parallel fences several metres apart to prevent the use of (small) catapults, or it might not make sense to do so, depending on how expensive the land is, how disruptive it would be to legitimate traders and local residents, how much it would cost, and so on.

I'm always disappointed (but not surprised) when people call a security measure a failure because one offender has thwarted it, without trying to asses how many other potential offenders have adjusted their behaviour in response to it. That's why security measures should be properly evaluated.

For what it's worth, like many people with a policing background I favour legalising and then regulating all drugs as a way to cut crime.

WaelJuly 10, 2012 12:44 PM

@ Matt A

"Increased the risks of offending ..."
Compared to what? Don't you have to talk about pre-fence smuggling techniques and their cost?

"Increased the effort of offending..."
Has it? Again, need to contrast exerted effort using a catapult to previous efforts.

"asses how many other potential offenders have adjusted their behaviour in response to it..."

Hmm! Somehow I find this scenario unlikely:

One smuggler to another:

- Hey amigo! They built a fence. What should we do now?
- Ay Caramba! let's find a different line of business.

kiwanoJuly 10, 2012 12:45 PM

@McGeHee

Given a choice between paying 17 cents in additional taxes to have a public health clinic provide a fix of heroin to a junkie, and having a $500 bike, tv, stereo, or whatever stolen by the same junkie, so they can fence it to raise the $10 needed to buy the same fix on the black market, I'll take the 17 cents. The policy change would need to lead to a 3000x increase in heroin use before the free dope becomes more expensive than the deterred crime.

(Yeah, I don't include the cost of nurses on the free and legal heroin side of things, but I'm also not including the cost of cops on the other side)

JPJuly 10, 2012 12:50 PM

Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man. Anything built by man, can be destroyed by him. (George Patton)

However, they are an effective delaying action in this case requiring expenditure of time, effort, and money while providing additional opportunities for exposure.

The fence should be one piece of defense in depth, not a defense in and of itself. The amount of depth should be appropriate to the risk.

The underlying demand is the basis of the risk and the marketplace should be restructured to mitigate the risk and transfer the cost.

mooJuly 10, 2012 1:47 PM

@JP:
"Effective" is relative...
The border between the U.S. and Mexico is almost 2000 miles long. Rather than spend the astronomical cost to build a fence that long, they should just deploy 10x as many border guards and give them much bigger weapons.

Or if they actually wanted to stop the illegal drug trade, they could do *that* almost immediately by just legalizing all drugs. Regulate and tax them and treat addiction as a health problem rather than a crime.

But that would make too much sense, and now that they've created vast criminal empires with their War on Some Drugs, those criminal empires are not going to just fold up and go away. So obviously they will just continue to spend more taxpayer money fighting them, until the end of time (read: until other, more serious, problems cause a national collapse).

FigureitoutJuly 10, 2012 2:02 PM

Catapults...nice. So Border Control counters with 50 ft. baseball gloves...

What about a powered parachute?

Maybe cartels buy a couple commercialized drones with a different "payload"?--Autonomous drug trafficking...

Brandioch ConnerJuly 10, 2012 2:39 PM

@Matt A
"It cost money to build and it will cost money to build another one when the government seizes it, burns it down or blows it up."

While that is correct, it needs to be restated as a percentage of the profits from transporting the drugs.

Unless the catapult replacement cost is high enough to eat the profits from transporting the drugs then it will just be an "expense" and the transportation will continue as before with an increase to cover the new expense.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narco-submarine

If they're willing to build and abandon boats and subs then losing a few catapults probably won't impact their operations.

nadnerbJuly 10, 2012 3:49 PM

@jacob

potshot - the act of shooting down $4M drones with $50 bails of ganja for sport

PJJuly 10, 2012 4:03 PM

I'd use pigeons or larger birds to transport drugs over a large fence like that. There's a bird I recall reading about that can carry coconuts over oceans. I'd get a few of those!

JPJuly 10, 2012 4:10 PM

@moo,

Yes I meant effective as in capability, not cost. And yes any fixed fortification can be beaten. Planes, tunnels, and catapults all evade the fence. Bombs destroy the fence.

Treatment makes sense. Modifying the market (both supply and demand) is needed. The answer will not be the same with every drug.

We don't treat them the same way now. Tobacco is taxed, alcohol is taxed and consequences of misuse are punished, marijuana depends on where you are, and narcotics are punished. We have experimental data. Now our leaders must decide which direction by listening to the population (and who is funding their campaign...)

RobSJuly 10, 2012 5:49 PM

While I have (a lot) of sympathy for those arguing in favour of legalising drugs, I doubt very much that legalisation will stop organised crime. They are a business (with different cost structures to legal businesses) and they have proven very adaptable over the centuries, they will find something else to make money with.

Clive RobinsonJuly 10, 2012 7:23 PM

@ Jacob,

Trebuchet anyone? ;)

Actually the counterweight trebuchet would for a number of reasons be a far far better weapon to use for this than a tension / compression stored energy catapult we tend to think of..

There is a gentelman in Kent England that makes both for fun and entertainment. Even with modern materials there is an issue with tension / compression catapults that even Leonardo De Vincie was well aware "they just don't scale up well beyond a certain size".

The trebuchet (or as my son when young so accuratly called it accidently "tree bucket hit") consists of a long member (tree trunk) and a frame around which it pivots. The Pivot point is usually about one fifth of the way up and a bucket full of rocks etc is attached to the end of the short end to act as the energy source. At the end of the long end there is two options, the first is a cup or other basket/bucket that rocks could be placed in. The second and much better was to attach a rope with a sling in it to hold the rock. This second option was usually way better as it increased both range and velocity by effectivly acting as an articulated extension.

I have personaly seen a trebuchet throw an old upright piano a hundred meters or so and lighter loads going out to over 300 meters.

They were so effective as "siege engines" that they were still prefered over cannons and mortars some 200 years after the introduction of their chemical energy (gun powder) bretheren's introduction in the 13thC.

It is know that some of the later trebuchets couls "fling" around 150Kg sufficiently hard to destroy castle walls etc.

Interestingly the Romans new of the basic operating principls back in the 3rd & 4th centuries (as can be seen from their weapons) but tended to use torshion / compression systems. The first usage of man held/powered trebuchet we have direct evidence of is in the 10thC in the middle east.

For the purpose of "flinging drugs" the trebuchet would have advantages over the likes of the balister. Three being greater range/hight profile, considerably quieter in use and has a smother energy release so would have lower G force on the payload at launch (thus favouring a parachute projectile).

averrosJuly 11, 2012 3:29 AM

@vasily pupkin:
"Yeah, # 3 is right, but adults should take responsibility when putting stuff in their bodies for illegal actions committed thereafter against other 'bodies'. Sounds reasonable?"

No, it doesn't. It does not make any difference to the victims if crime occurred under influence or simply because the criminal is a violent moron. Reducing penalty because criminal was sober is stupid (in fact, it can be easily argued than it makes more likely for a crime to be premediated).

Besides, the only recreational drug known to science which makes users more violent while under influence is (surprise) legal. It's called alcohol. Most illegal drugs make users much *less* likely to be violent under influence. What was the last time anyone saw a violent pothead, raver, hippie on acid, or a heroin junkie?

averrosJuly 11, 2012 3:35 AM

@Mike B: "The only reason we are "losing" the war on drug smuggling is because we are unable or unwilling to take the steps necessary to deter it."

You mean instituting the full-blown fascism? Even that won't help - Nazis tried to eradicate drugs in their quest for the purity of Arian bodily fluids, but failed.

You bet we're unwilling. In fact, we'll fight people who'd try to impose that crap on us, with guns, if needed.

AutolykosJuly 11, 2012 4:39 AM

@averros: I can recall a study finding that alcohol only makes those people more violent who believe alcohol makes people more violent (they tested across different cultures), and that the effects of alcohol and a placebo are the same. So it's psychological, not physical. Don't have link or references, though.

Besides, punishing people for things they did while completely drunk and unable to make sound decisions is a tricky subject. In Germany at least, it is circumvented by punishing them for getting that drunk in the first place instead (not harder than if they committed the crime while sober, and only up to five years). It's called "Vollrausch" (§323a StGB)

Z.LozinskiJuly 11, 2012 5:04 AM

@Clive,

Agreed that the trebuchet is mechanically more efficient. But they are typically quite large. Surely better to copy the Romans who used pre-fabricated scorpions that could be quickly knocked down and carried on a donkey or by two legionaries. This allows the engine to be moved and used in multiple places.

http://www.legionxxiv.org/catapulta/

Something about a old burro carrying a portable drug-firing Roman Legionary catapult along the Mexican border makes me think of Sergio Leone ..

Anthill InsideJuly 11, 2012 6:57 AM

How do the recipients pay for the bale? If they send payment by some alternative channel, there are vulnerabilities at both ends.

  1. The growers never fling the bale, but claim they did. They insist the receivers mustn't have looked hard enough, and demand payment.
  2. The receivers find the bale, but claim they didn't. They refuse to pay the growers.

They could do this iteratively, with a second catapult on the American side. Fling one bale, fling back payment, fling the next bale, etc. Trouble is, they waste a lot of find searching for each package, increasing the risk of being caught.

I note that the catapult was used for marijuana, not for the more valuable substances which might be more tempting to steal. So why use the catapult at all? Because, as the linked article observes, marijuana is smelly and harder to smuggle by more conventional means.

vasiliy pupkinJuly 11, 2012 8:03 AM

@autolykos
Sorry, you don't have link to confirm your statement. But anybody working within criminal justice system in any jurisdiction could confirm that percentage of violent crimes committed under influence is substantilally higher than by sober criminals. I guess Germany has a good model for its own jurisdiction but I doubt 'one size fits all' will work in other countries with other cultural attitude towards alcohol consumption and level of intoxication.
@averros:
'Reducing penalty because criminal was sober is stupid ' - that is not the same what I was suggesting.
Basic penalty is for sober. Being sober is not mitigating factor. Being intoxicated is aggravated factor.
Intoxication affected behavior not only by make it more pure violent, but by make person under influence be less in control of own behavior versus sober person due to distortion of perception of reality, emotional & cognitive processes and unbalanced reactions to stimulus even becoming temporary (sometimes) delusional to some degree. Those all affected 'choice' of victims. I agree that for particular victim it does not make any diffrence, but 'pool' of potential victims for intoxicated person is wider because they are more random.

aaaJuly 11, 2012 10:00 AM

@Anthill Inside:
The senders and receivers have a long-term business relationship built on trust. When these transactions run smoothly, it is enormously profitable for both of them. Its also difficult for one party to cheat the other without being found out (someone will snitch on them, etc). So it doesn't make much sense for them to cheat their partners unless they are willing to kill them off at the same time, and there is already someone else around to replace them.

If we were serious about the "War on Drugs", one way to do some actual damage would be black ops to sabotage the relationships between the different groups. You convince one group that their partner is trying to cheat them, and maybe you can get them to kill each other off for a while.

John Galt IIIJuly 11, 2012 10:32 AM

@aaa and @Anthill Inside
They enhance the trust aspect of their relationship by using extremely gruesome murders on defectors, suspected defectors and innocent bystanders, and by regular loyalty testing.

jacobJuly 11, 2012 11:45 AM

@nabnerd Funny One!
@clive. Yep, I love going to punkin' chunkin' here in the states. Many a splattered corpses strewn about the countryside.

Discussion though. Many address the issue of cat and mouse game of security. One side changes in response to something the other side did. Now, this is probably before your time but...

"The on-board Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) was about 1 cubic foot with 2K of 16-bit RAM and 36K of hard-wired core-rope memory with copper wires threaded or not threaded through tiny magnetic cores. The 16-bit words were generally 14 bits of data (or two op-codes), 1 sign bit, and 1 parity bit. The cycle time was 11.7 micro-seconds. Programming was done in assembly language and in an interpretive language, in reverse Polish. Scaling was fixed point fractional. An assembly language ADD took about 23.4 micro-seconds. The operating system featured a multi-programmed, priority/event driven asynchronous executive packed into 2K of memory. The Mean Time to Failure (MTBF) of the machine in a space environment was calculated at 50,000 hours -- almost 6 years, and it never failed in flight operations. It was truly a marvel for its time, a tribute to M.I.T.'s designers, and it accomplished a most complex mission. "

It was called the LOL computer. It stood for Little Old Ladies. They roped the wire for the program.

Maybe the hackproof computer is actually to hardwire it? Damn Small Linux is pretty small, but trying to do Windows 7 could drive someone or many mental..

Core rope OSs? Just an interesting thought of fancy...The same thing can be accomplished in other ways but it would be interesting to see it in operation. :)

jacobJuly 11, 2012 11:48 AM

Sorry meant to add. What about the tshirt cannon they use at sporting events. Cruise along on ATV and fire away???dunt, dunt, dunt music soundtrack for bonus authenticity...

Nick PJuly 11, 2012 1:29 PM

@ autolykos

" I can recall a study finding that alcohol only makes those people more violent who believe alcohol makes people more violent (they tested across different cultures), and that the effects of alcohol and a placebo are the same. So it's psychological, not physical. Don't have link or references, though."

I find that to be very dubious information. First though: how many people have died from their Blood Placebo Content? Additionally, a big part of aggression centers around the primitive parts of the brain that are similar to animals. They kinda fight with the more rational parts in decision-making. So, we have a substance that is initially an upper & slowly nullifies the rational side of the brain. Then, we make a similar observation that people who have a lot of it start doing stupid or aggressive things. This happens consistently regardless of the type of person to drink it or how they rate on a trance capacity scale. I propose that alcohol has a causal effect that makes this happen.

(Additionally, many people trying to will themselves to be sober & believing they can do it failed. A number of them also killed others on the road due to this belief. Placebo my a**.)

That said, it will work the other way: a placebo can imitate effects of alcohol. Here's a cool charlatan doing exactly that:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zryGzTbU49I

JardaJuly 12, 2012 2:20 PM

@Jack Blackjack: That won't happen. Too smart and to simple. Imagine all those people in law enforcement, all the hard hand politicians making a career out of theit antidrug hardline etc. All those would loose jobs so they will be lobying and lobying until the war on drugs never ends. The drug Mafia will press through all their ways of influence too. They would loose all incomes if drugs would be legal.

BTW, maybe the purpose of the fence is not what is declared. Not to keep Mexicans and drugs away, but to give a job to some friend who has a fence building company.

joeJuly 12, 2012 3:53 PM

A trebuchet is also quite difficult to build so that it will work as desired. I recall reading that Cortez's men built one and the first rock they launched came back down on it and destroyed it. I don't remember if they tried to build a second one.

No OneJuly 12, 2012 4:25 PM

@Jonadab: The way to solve the problem of Mexico being a huge border is to buy Mexico. The border would change from a couple thousand miles to a couple hundred. Illegal immigration and drug smuggling would be nearly eliminated. Then we just have to send our effective police through Mexico to clean out what corruption and crud we don't want.

RogerJuly 13, 2012 10:00 AM

The story is a lot less funny when you find out how it ended. Well, less "let's laugh at the stupid gringos" funny, and a lot more "let's laugh at the stupid banditos" funny.

You see, thanks to that much despised high-tech wizardy, the catapulting of marijuana into the USA *failed*. Badly. They were detected instantly, all their stuff was captured, and they haven't repeated the attempt since. The Mexican authorities captured not only 45 pounds of drugs, but also the brand new SUV. Oh, and also the catapult.

The real moral of the story is that the Federales only got the gear, they somehow failed to arrest a single person. Despite being tipped off to the exact location, and capturing their transportation, leaving them on foot in the middle of the desert. Kind of makes you go "hmm."

Eric HJuly 15, 2012 8:46 PM

"They were detected instantly, all their stuff was captured, and they haven't repeated the attempt since."

How can anyone possibly know that they were caught on their first attempt, or that they haven't repeated since? Are they known for posting on FB or keeping a Wiki for every smuggle attempt? Sounds like DEA propaganda.

The tunnels sound very capital intensive. I'd bet that if they aren't already doing it, the most cost-effective method would be the integration of RC planes and GPS receivers. Anyone who can marshal the resources required to set up industrial meth labs and/or engineered tunnels can do it.

tensorJuly 17, 2012 1:07 AM

"There's a bird I recall reading about that can carry coconuts over oceans."

Too easy...

1st soldier with a keen interest in birds: Are you suggesting coconuts migrate?
King Arthur: Not at all. They could be carried.
1st soldier with a keen interest in birds: What? A swallow carrying a coconut?
King Arthur: It could grip it by the husk!
1st soldier with a keen interest in birds: It's not a question of where he grips it! It's a simple question of weight ratios! A five ounce bird could not carry a one pound coconut.
King Arthur: Well, it doesn't matter. Will you go and tell your master that Arthur from the Court of Camelot is here?
1st soldier with a keen interest in birds: Listen. In order to maintain air-speed velocity, a swallow needs to beat its wings forty-three times every second, right?
King Arthur: Please!
1st soldier with a keen interest in birds: Am I right?

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Photo of Bruce Schneier by Per Ervland.

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