Dan Cooper




Since the renewed interest in this bandit from 1971 following the discovery of a parachute that may have been used in his getaway, I figured I’d throw my two bits in.   The details are at the link above although the recent interest surfaced at http://a-list.msn.com/.  I won’t bother regurgitating the lengthy details of the caper.  Guy hijacks airplane.  Gets $200,000 ransom.  Bails out of the back of the airplane with the money somewhere between Tacoma and Reno.  The FBI declare that he is probably dead and that none of the lost money, which they claim to have all the serial numbers for, has ever made it back into the monetary system. 

Then in 1980 a child digging in a picnic area by the Columbia river finds over $5000 of the cash as shown by comparison of serial numbers.   Although this is 40 miles upstream from anywhere that the hijacker could have landed, the FBI somewhat mysteriously sticks to the story that the guy must be dead.  Perhaps the $5,000 hitched a ride with some salmon that were heading upstream to spawn?

Then in 1995 a certain Duane Weber makes a deathbed confession that he was "Dan Cooper".  He matches the profile.  He closely matches the composite drawing.  He has the same traits of liking to drink bourbon and chain smoking.  He visited the area where a portion of the money was found back in 1979 and his wife thought that it was odd at the time.  There is nothing conclusive putting him at the scene but with all the various evidence the probabilities are that Duane Weber was Dan Cooper. 

The FBI had many obvious inaccuracies in their stories, for instance describing the man as D.B. Cooper rather than Dan Cooper, suggesting that he was dead when the evidence seemed to be to the contrary, etc.   I don’t think that this was F.B.I. incompetence.  They had a highly meticulous criminal on their hands and no way to get him unless he made a mistake.  So they baited him.  It may have worked to an extent- he buries some money where it is likely to be found in a place that would make it certain that somebody had access to the money after the paracute drop and at the very least had moved it some considerable distance. 

The FBI profilers probably figured this out easily and the FBI played stupid to see if they could bait him into taking more steps to gain attention. 

The FBI story on the parachute drop from the start wasn’t very plausible.  Everything about the guy was meticulously planned and yet he hadn’t planned the single most important step in the whole venture?  Unlikely.  He probably had done dry runs in planes overflying the route that he would be taking at night, memorizing landmarks that he could see at night such as city lights and in particular their relation to good terrain to parachute on. 

The most interesting possible spin remaining is that a certain Richard McCoy was also cited as a candidate to be Cooper and carried out a similar stunt 4 months later.  He got caught by his big mouth.  Cooper had left behind a tie and tie clip that were similar to ones owned by McCoy, and this was said to be his only mistake.  I suspect that it wasn’t a mistake at all.

Both Weber and McCoy had military background.  For various reasons it was thought that McCoy was not Cooper and I tend to agree with them, including one not mentioned that their psychological profiles appear to be different. 

But the tie and tie clip are an interesting coincidence.  If anything could reduce the residual uncertainty here, it would probably be if a connection can be shown between Weber and McCoy.   I have a hunch that Weber heard about what McCoy was planning and had enough information to know to plant a specific type of tie and tie clip, the only things about him that were particular noteworthy, at the scene of the crime.  

Or Weber and McCoy could have been closer than that.  McCoy refused to talk about the prior skyjacking but apparently did not deny any involvement.  But if Weber was setting McCoy up to take the fall for the prior hijacking, they were not likely to be good friends.  In particular, Weber wouldn’t have set up somebody that could then finger him.

What of the parachute recently found?  Well, compare stories and it seems that Weber jumped with a red and yellow parachute and a white parachute was found, which doesn’t seem like good cause for reopening an investigation.    It could be that there was a dry run including parachuting and it could be a holdover from that, but even that point would seem to be a stretch. 

More interesting is the math.  Weber claimed on his deathbed that he buried $173,000 in a bucket and forgot where it was- a little suspicious given that the criminal was highly methodical, but possible- say you jump from an airplane at night, land badly and bugger up a knee, and then have to stash a large amount of cash so that you aren’t conspicuously carrying all of it- the methodical person suddenly has to improvise and does it badly.  But we know at least some of the money made it so that it could be planted later on a riverbank.  There of course could be other motives for concealing what happened to the money, such as protecting others.

The figure of $173,000 though is a fairly precise number, and when added with the approximately $5000 found later, leaves almost $12,000 unaccounted for.   Probably he spent it, and who knows for sure if the serials for every $20 bill were meticulously checked over the years to see if it made it back into circulation?  Given the notorious difficulties of law enforcement with more important things like fingerprints and DNA information pools I would not be at all surprised if the posturing about the serial numbers on the bills was all smoke and mirrors.   Or maybe some of the bills were detected and the news releases that none had shown up were designed to get the perpetrator to be more sloppy. 

And then there is the issue of why the investigation is being reopened on a rather thin pretence after the two primary suspects are both dead. 

About the only thing that I can think of is this: Weber didn’t jump out of that airplane with a bucket.   If his story was true, finding a bucket seems to suggest being somewhere close to human habitation.  Could somebody else have found his stash?  Is some of the remaining money showing up?  You have to wonder given the recent interest in what would seem to be otherwise a moot investigation.



Talking about Saudi king seeks religious dialogue – Mideast/N. Africa – msnbc.com



Saudi king seeks religious dialogue – Mideast/N. Africa – msnbc.com

The moderates of this world have to have the courage to speak up, and no doubt there are as many moderates in Islam as there are in Christianity.   The way of this world presently is that the extremes get the most press whether they are representive or not.  This makes it more incumbent on those moderates such as the Saudi king who, in virtue of who they are, can generate press so as to bring us together rather than tear us apart, to do so.

The principle of an eye for an eye has been disparaged as encouraging violence, but any principle can be used in a way that is unjust in the circumstances.   At its root the principle is the key liberal principle of proportionality in response.

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life.  Those who kill by the sword shall die by the sword, those who lead into captivity shall go into captivity. 

Those who call themselves Muslim but who favor disproportionality in response are not Muslim.  Those that call themselves Christian but who favor disproportionality in response are not Christian.  Those that call themselves Jews but who favor disproportionality in response are not Jews.

If cartoons are made by Christians about Mohammed then the Muslims may make cartoons about Jesus.   Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it.  But I don’t recall Moses ever saying anything about a life for a cartoon.

When a class in an african country recently and affectionately nicknamed a teddy bear Mohammed, lunatics pretending to be Muslim took to the streets demanding the execution of the teacher.   They said that they were Muslim, but I deny it.  If Islam has a form of punishment such as excommunication, that entire country should be excommunicated or equivalent until those there claiming to be Muslim do a penance proportionate to their crime.

Recently a man in Afghanistan, if I recall, was sentenced to death for distributing something off the internet supporting the idea that a woman could have multiple husbands.  The proportionate remedy is distribution of materials favoring a contrary view.   I don’t recall Moses saying anything about a life for an idea.

Incidentally, under the old law, if those persons were successful in taking that man’s life for a publication, their own lives would be forfeit.

And, something that it would be nice to see the Saudi king address on the home front, the recent case which illustrated the practice of the Saudi courts of punishing rape victims as well as the perpetrators.   The judges that have done so, under the old law are to receive one lash for every lash that they have sentenced a rape victim to. 

The history of Christianity is blacker than that of Islam, something that we must always be mindful of when intemperately evaluating their culture.  The recent liberalism in western society is a historical anomaly brought on by atheists and free thinkers rather than the Christian church.  That should not be seen as a threat to the churches, rather it puts on pressure for them to be better, without which they become rancid. 

In any event, the statements by the Saudi king are a great thing and others need to follow up on them so as to sustain the momentum. 

As was once said by a British parliamentarian, in order for evil to prevail, it is sufficient that good men do nothing.

Talking about Va. Tech families slam settlement deal – Crime & courts- msnbc.com



Va. Tech families slam settlement deal – Crime & courts- msnbc.com

There IS something that should be disturbing about this situation, and it is that a settlement was even offered in the first place. 

The first thing that should be looked at in a so-called tort claim is, could the defendant have done anything, or ought the defendant to have done anything?

The answer in this case is clearly and unambiguously, no.   Your chances of being killed in a Columbine or Virginia Tech style shooting are lower than your chances of being killed by lightning.  Risk assessment should be undertaken accordingly.  Campuses, shopping malls, churches and public parks and any other public venue should not be given absolute liability for the safety of those on their premises.  And we should not want to turn western society into some soviet style closed society or require expensive and cumbersome safety features for something that is not objectively a realistic threat. 

And so I am disappointed that there was any payment at all.  It sets an extraordinarily bad precedent in that the University has implicitly accepted absolute liability for the safety of those on campus. 

We also don’t need the thought police going and deciding that anybody that seems spooky should be either locked away or have their mind destroyed with drugs.  It is precisely the reason that events such as Virginia Tech are so extraordinarily rare that they generate so much press.  We are so jaded by real threats such as automobile accidents and big corporations dumping loads of carginagens that kill millions of people per year that they don’t attract much interest.   Rare events like plane crashes and public shootings generate much more interest, sell more papers and skew objective risk assessments.

What surprises me is that gun makers escape blame in such situations.  My form of socialist capitalism would dictate that, generally speaking, any area of activity should pay for itself. 

Just as any industry should pay for all costs of environmental cleanup associated with that industry, and any other costs, I don’t see any reason why the damage caused by guns shouldn’t be made part of the cost of doing business by the gun industry.  

The USA has a fascination with guns.  The second amendment does also guarantee that the population generally is entitled to have them- but it is the people, rather than any particular person, that are entitled to them.  I would take that as implying that for any given individual to be denied a gun would require some form of articulable cause as to why that individual should be exempted from the general rule.   I’m not a big fan of guns or the NRA, but the NRA’s interpretation of the amendment seems to be basically correct, and it is worth noting that without a well armed militia the USA might never have come into being, or certainly would have followed a different path, perhaps like Canada’s.

On the other hand, in my view absolute liability has to be revisited.  When a party creates a hazard that is an inherent threat to the general welfare, I see no solid policy reason why that party should not bear all of the costs of that hazard, even if the party is not negligent.  Otherwise that party is in effect receiving a subsidy or handout from the rest of society.   Because the principle is covering the full cost of doing business, a combination of absolute liability and punitive damages would be inappropriate.

Put the cost on the gun manufacturers and that gives them a greater financial incentive to regulate their industry as well and be careful who gets guns. 

If someone were handing out hand grenades and they were used on campus everybody would know who to go after.  America’s gun fetish has led to myopia. 

Even if the University’s response to the attack was in some ways imperfect, so what?  It is very hard to prepare for a problem like that and having a paramilitary organization on every campus would not be constructive. 

Making public institutions absolute guarantors of the safety of those on their premises has no place in a free society.


Talking about Pronounced dead, man recovers – People: Tales of survival – MSNBC.com



Pronounced dead, man recovers – People: Tales of survival – MSNBC.com

Somebody investigate that hospital.  One of the big reasons that I’m not registered as an organ donor- it gives a huge financial incentive to a corrupt medical system to declare one dead.   Organ transplant operations are expensive.  The medical system could make a million dollars off of one person if there were enough matches.   I hope that the doctors are required to administer something to knock out the organ donors just in case they are aware at some level because the prospect of removing organs from an aware patient can’t be justified even if it saves ten lives.   Any lives saved will be lost in time anyways.  What we do have control over is that we don’t act like barbarians. 

Talking about Pope calls for peace in Tibet, Iraq, Holy Land – The Vatican- msnbc.com



Pope calls for peace in Tibet, Iraq, Holy Land – The Vatican- msnbc.com

Marx once said that religion was the opiate of the masses.  There is something to that, but there are times that the masses need an opiate.

There will be pressures over the next century due to shortage of resources, shortage of food and the consequences of environmental destruction.  The influence of religious figures will be important to prevent us from blowing each other up and making these conditions even worse. 

The pope has recently come under some criticism for attempting to convert people to Christianity.  That is a rather singular objection to a religion.   As long as the focus is positive and Opus Dei style tactics aren’t used, no threats of damnation- if incorrect interpretation of scripture is cause for damnation, then all of you are surely damned-, and the choice is of the person’s own free will, I can’t see what the objection could possibly be. 

It seems to me that China is missing an opportunity with the Dalai Lama.   China faces enormous challenges in the future, especially due to environmental contamination.   Trying to do the same things as western countries with far lower population densities will lead to disaster.  I see a future in which 1.3 billion people in a nuclear superpower are going to be living in a Sudbury style moonscape.  That should be making people far more nervous than communist political policies.    If China gets in to desparate circumstances, a democratically elected leader would be more dangerous. 

For all of China’s re-education of the people, they are still entreprenuerial.  That is because it is genetic and can’t be educated away.  I would go so far as to say that "communist state" is an oxymoron.  All that happens with official communism is that those that are entreprenuerial go in to the black market or become corrupt party officials and you get mostly unregulated, institutionalized corruption.

Religion on the other hand has been far more successful than political indoctorination in convincing people to make do with less.  Sometimes, as noted by Marx, this has been abusive when the general population has been convinced that it is good and right to sacrifice their interests for the benefit of those who have undeserved money and power.

While such teachings can be used for an improper purpose, there isn’t any reason why they cannot be used for a more noble purpose as well. 

Capitalism in China has taken on a life of its own and if the communist party tried to put the brakes on it now they would probably lose power.  There is a certain irony here in that I think that China needs the Dalai Lama, and possibly the influence of other religions as well, in order to avoid disaster. 

Talking about Unelected Bernanke, Paulson key in crisis – Decision ’08- msnbc.com



Unelected Bernanke, Paulson key in crisis – Decision ’08- msnbc.com

What’s missing from this picture?  The focus on what has gone wrong in capitalism. 

As is taught in courses on organizational behaviour, behaviour that is rewarded is what you get more of, and the results are often perversely literal.  These days the nearly exclusive focus of those who call themselves capitalists is short term shareholder value.   Short term improvements in share price are what is rewarded so short term improvements in share price are what we get. 

This is in contrast to old style capitalism.  No self-respecting traditional capitalist of the Carnegie or Rockefeller type would ever bet the long term viability of his business for a burst of share activity lasting a few short years followed by a collapse.   One of the virtues of the old-school capitalism is that it was in some ways self regulating. 

Long term thinking benefits society as a whole even though it may also benefit large corporations.   Probably the best example of how the lack of this long term thinking affects all of us is recent disasters such as the hurricanes in Louisiana and Florida.   All across the US and probably most of the rest of the world there are buildings built where no buildings ought to be, and if the insurers were doing thier jobs and sending a message by not insuring areas that are vulnerable from the outset, not only would the insurers have saved a lot of money but everybody else would have been spared a lot of grief too. 

But there is always the lure of short term revenue.  Maybe there won’t be a hurricane somewhere for 30 years.  Maybe the housing market won’t collapse.  The lure of the short term revenue is too much and the pressure to take the short term revenue is great because it can feed the appetite for ever increasing share prices.  Then when the inevitable happens there are multiple disasters feeding on one another.

If this is allowed to continue there will be more Enrons.   Companies will keep on a brave face until one or two weeks before total collapse, and then there will be disaster.   We can’t be sure how many more Enrons might be lurking out there because with the present state of fancy accounting we only get the true picture of a company when it folds.

Talking about Tibet protests spread across China – China- msnbc.com



Tibet protests spread across China – China- msnbc.com

Various superpowers ought to stand down from positions that they have taken that in the long term will be unsustainable.   The US position on Cuba, Russian position on Kosovo and Chinese position on Taiwan are all wildly unrealistic, unfair and roughly equivalent acts of stupidity.  I’d suggest all three backing down at once.  As they each get a concession from an adversary then they can all declare victory.  It is one of the perils of power politics that once politicians do something stupid, they are afraid to back down because they think they’ll look weak.   So find a way for everybody to back off of their acts of stupidity so that the result is politically acceptable. 

What to trade for Tibet?  How about the US getting out of Afghanistan.   I’m not sure why the Chinese want to hold on to Tibet, which is most noted for being a harsh environment that creates lots of Buddhist monks.   Not exactly a strategic asset.  But no doubt, having taken it for whatever reason, now the Chinese are afraid that if they give up Tibet they’ll look weak.  Afghanistan is worse than when the US went in and now over half the economy is opium. 

In the case of a country like Tibet that has been run by foreign occupiers for a long time, a gradual transition to independence is usually preferrable.   When there is some meaningful organization, the sudden loss of structure can be very bad such as with the fall of Stalinism and the abandonment of former colonies by the English. 

I am somewhat disappointed in the Dalai Lama for not urging his people to use restraint.   Any success with Tibet will likely be through diplomatic efforts.  There will not be a foreign invasion into territory that has been part of a nuclear superpower for almost 60 years in order to free Tibet.  That would start world war III. 

Another option worth looking at is to negotiate with the Chinese for easier emigration for Tibetans.  Then they can restart their culture elsewhere without fetters. 

What is happening in Tibet right now is bound to end badly.