February 17, 2009

The Bush-Obama Era in action

From the WSJ, we can infer that the "virtual fence" along the border is actually failing:

A troubled $8 billion project to erect a "virtual fence" along the nation's southwestern border has received a boost, with federal officials giving the go-ahead for Boeing Co. to resume work, and the economic-stimulus package providing new funding for it [$100 million, which might be the smallest dollar amount I've typed in a couple of weeks].

But the project's government overseer said significant challenges remain. Mark Borkowski, executive director of the Department of Homeland Security's Secure Border Initiative program, said the biggest may be tamping down public expectations that technology can solve the country's illegal-immigration and border-security issues.

"We fell into a message that this technology was going to be a great, God-given gift to border security," said Mr. Borkowski, who last October became the third official to head the project in as many years. "Now we need to do a better job of marketing what it will -- and won't -- be producing." He said the technology isn't a panacea -- it is meant only to be a tool for agents on the ground.

The government awarded the virtual-fence contract to Boeing in late 2006, in a project known as SBInet. The project aims to send real-time data on illegal crossings to border agents by integrating cameras, sensors, radar and mobile communications in a virtual fence along the Mexican border.

Technical hurdles have dogged the project ever since the concept of a virtual fence, designed by Boeing, was first tested on the ground. As a result, the government put the project on hold last year.

Early testing revealed problems ranging from radars that were tripped by rainfall to an inability to connect and integrate all of the system's pieces. "It's easy to think you can go buy off-the-shelf stuff and string it all together," said Mr. Borkowski. "But the reality is there is a certain due diligence we ought to have put into that in the first place."

Although many of the integration problems have been smoothed out, new problems emerged during later testing in New Mexico, Mr. Borkowski said. Software used to run the system is prone to crashing after extended periods of operation, he said. But he also said he thinks this can be fixed.

Despite the emergence of the additional issues, earlier this month the government allowed work on the project to resume.

If the problems are resolved soon, border patrol agents could start running the system and getting feeds on a regular basis by the end of the summer, Mr. Borkowski said.

C'mon, we don't need a breakthrough in string theory, we need a fence. It's not really that complicated. The Israelis built a non-virtual border fence that keeps out suicide bombers, who are, by definition, highly motivated.

Basically, the Bush Administration didn't want a working border fence and the Obama Administration doesn't either, so they both futz around with this bogus "virtual fence" as a distraction from finishing a real fence.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


David said...

Did the Great Wall of China work?

For a time, yes indeed.

Thrasymachus said...

Actually I think the Great Wall of China *did* work.

And of course the "virtual fence" is not supposed to. I don't know how good the government is at getting things to work, but when they want something *not* to work, they accomplish that very well.

Anonymous said...

Boeing lives of government subsidies camouflaged as defence contracts, just like Airbus/EADS.
Maybe the AF is running out of pet projects; or this was compensation for dumping the Comanche chopper contract, or the tanker deal?

John Mansfield said...

This is the worst of possible outcomes. Instead of a simple barrier that hampers the bulk of would-be crossers, we get the federal government perfecting its ability to monitor huge swathes of territory.

Mark said...

Always important to remember that the "virtual fence" is the idea proposed by those actually opposed to a real wall. How I wish I still had all those old editorials showing that it was the open borders type papers who argued for the virtual fence as part of "comprehensive immigration reform." But I'm sure somebody does.

But from the open borders point of view the logic behind a virtual fence was unassailable:

1) Nativist xenophobic bigots demand a wall on the Mexican border.
2) Instead of a wall give them a "virtual" wall.
3) Virtual wall inevitably fails.
4) Tell xenophobic racist nativist bigots "see, we told you so!"
5) Amnesty!

The virtual wall was meant to fail - to be an expensive failure, in fact, designed also to hand out a lot of money to a major government contractor. It was meant to be an $8 billion bullet point against enforcement, not an actual working wall.

Gene Berman said...

At least Boeing sounds a bit more scrupulous and above-board than Diveroli. Probably different apparel styles, too---that's important.

Mark said...

On a slight tangent, interesting data in a BBC story this morn on California's woes:

California's property boom has been replaced with an almighty crash: 28% of all US properties at some stage of the repossession process are in the state.

That's 28% of properties - generally, properties more expensive than those in the rest of the country. So 28% of the properties, 35 or even 42% of the bad debt? Not unrealistic.

California generates nearly 13% of US GDP

I always (until recently) thought of CA as a rich state. But 13% of American GDP isn't really out of line with its share of the population. So those immigrants aren't doing that much heavy lifting...

It's interesting the folks that get quoted in the story, too:

Angel Perez, a 33-year-old education worker from Pasadena, found out recently he was not getting a rebate of more than $2,000.

What the hell kind of person refers to himself as an "education worker." Not a teacher or prof. Maybe an ESL or GED instructor? Instructing who? Oh...

Anne - not her real name - has worked as an administration assistant in the California Department of Corrections for 10 months. She knows she is in line for a "pink slip"...Anne is 34 and has a 17-year-old son who lives with her in Sacramento. They look after her son's baby for half the week. She is the only breadwinner.

So, single 34-year-old mother, who had a son at 17, who himself has his own baby to whose mother he is also unmarried.

Ah, the people who make for a great state. I can't imagine why California is on the verge of default!

Mark said...

Follow up on that BBC California story: Anne, the 34 year old single grandmother, has this to say about the state legislature:

I hope they come to a deal but I don't think they are competent enough.

They have screwed it up so far. It's a horrible situation. So many peoples' lives are on the line because these guys cannot come up with a good decision.

You tell 'em, Miss 34-year-old grandmother!

Anonymous said...

The barbarians breached the Great Wall not through force, but through bribing the guards. That's relevant to our case too.

Anonymous said...

When Mexico's drug violence spills over to such a degree it cannot be hidden or ignored,just watch how fast those twits throw up a real fence in order to protect their rice bowls from pissed of voters.

Evil Sandmich said...

Still seems awful expensive compared to what five guys and a couple clips of ammo could accomplish. I know that's bad to say, but a believable threat to shoot someone for crossing the border would mean that you wouldn't have to shoot anyone since no one would chance it.

Anonymous said...

Could easily worked ESPECIALLY if we heavily penalized companies which hired illegals.

It is a matter of will. And our elite do not have the will to enforce the law, in fact they don't want to enforce it. BUT they need to give the impression they are. Then, after a half ass effort, they can say 'see it doesn't work, and since we already have 10 million illegals we may as well embrace diversity, oh and a north american union too.

Anonymous said...

The only benefit to this ongoing charade is watching the usual suspects twist themselves into rhetorical knots over how a fence can't possibly work--it's cold comfort, I know, but I cling to what I can these days.

Dutch Boy said...

"Virtual fences" should be used in areas where a physical barrier is impractical or harmful (e.g.,wildlife preserves). Border Patrol forces could be deployed there in greater numners to make up for their deficiencies. Of course, the actual intention is not to have a virtual fence but a faux fence to convince the voters that something is being done about illegal immigration while not really doing much at all.

Svigor said...

"It's easy to think you can go buy off-the-shelf stuff and string it all together,"

It's easy to do, too, when you make a REAL fence.

Yes, we can: buy concrete, brick, and chain link fence off-the-shelf.

A couple billion bucks would build an Israeli-style fence along our southern border. The savings in public services alone would pay for it quickly (wild guess is 1-2 years).

But I guess an Israeli-style wall is too good for Americans...

Zardad's Dog said...

A few years from now I'm sure we will all be shocked to learn that the Bush administration officials who steered this money to Boeing will have found cushy high-paying jobs with Boeing, Boeing subcontractors, and lobbying firms connected to Boeing.

Anonymous said...

The mule of gold took out the great wall of China.

Anonymous said...

Whenever from now on I hear the phrase "Bush-Obama Era" - a brilliant linkage, btw, since Bush was far more like Obama than liberals will ever admit - I will think of it as a double entendre, hearing the word "error" pronounced the Yankee way.

Anonymous said...


Did you catch this editorial in the WSJ, "The Decline of California". Key sentence:

"Roughly 1.4 million more nonimmigrant Americans have left California than entered over the last decade, according to the American Legislative Exchange Council."

That raises a big matzoh ball of a question, doesn't it? It's like the WSJ is implicitly acknowledging that most of the immigrants who came to California over the last decade (illegals from Mexico) are less economically productive than the Americans they chased out.

- Fred

Ronduck said...

Wikipedia has a list of all major border walls in the world here. If you look at the list its' amazing the number of third world countries that take their security seriously.

The best though is the fence that South Africa is dismantling along its' northern border. This quote that is in the wiki article is a gem:

Concern is growing in South Africa over the country's use of a lethal, 3,300 volt one amp electrified fence on its borders with Mozambique and Zimbabwe. According to a report recently published by the South African Catholic Bureau for Refugees, the fence has caused more deaths in three years than the Berlin Wall did in its entire history. Local people call the fence the 'Snake of Fire'. There have been calls by South African church leaders over the past months for the fence to be switched off permanently. Most of its victims have been women and children fleeing the war in Mozambique. The Berlin Wall resulted in 80 deaths over 28 years. Official figures provided by the South African Defence Force (SADF) indicate that 89 people were electrocuted at the fence between August 1986 and August 1989. Church leaders dispute these figures, and claim that the true figure is nearer 200 each year.

Henry Canaday said...

Hey, lay off Boeing. Without Boeing, the only things America could export would be wheat and Windows.

Censored By Scum said...

Well it's not like we had strong border enforcement during the Reagan-Bush-Clinton era. It's not like it all went to pieces in 2000.

The financers of American politics dictate that no presidential candidate will ever get the nomination of their party if they promise to authentically enforce the borders.

And if the pool of candidates is so culled, then the result is that no border enforcement president ever gets elected.

Reagan did the first Amnesty in 1986. And the result was immediate pressure on the balance sheets of the Southwest states. Credit ratings page from the CA State Treasurer's web site:

California hasn't had a AAA credit rating since 1986

Tim said...

The WSJ editorial blames politicians for problesm created by New York journalists and intellectuals. The political class cannot address the root cause of the problem in a climate in which efforts to end illegal immigration are denounced as racist by the likes of WSJ.

Anonymous said...

The elites in our Government want a virtual fence because it will be "easily reverseable". A real fence is permanent.

We could have built a real fence for about $3-4 billion by now but we keep investing in hope.

American Goy said...

"Basically, the Bush Administration didn't want a working border fence and the Obama Administration doesn't either, so they both futz around with this bogus "virtual fence" as a distraction from finishing a real fence."

It is really simple to understand.

American government is paid (thru lobbying money and deals to be employed after politics) by big business.

It is very advantageous to big business to have low skilled illegals flood into the country to lower the low skilled wages in the country.

It is also very advantageous to big business to have highly skilled technical workers, such as the Indians who are programmers, doctors etc come here and hammer the higher paid specialists wages.

Because, of course, no American wants to become a high tech specialist (for example, a programmer) and make from $40 to $70 / hour.


Artanis said...

Boeing IS the problem. I'd love to see Boeing crash, since then their incessant lobbying and the contribution they make to the perception of a viable US export industry would stop.

Life would go on. The pieces of Boeing would continue on as smaller bits.

Anonymous said...

McCain probably showed less interest in a functional wall than anyone. Why on earth would anyone interested in controlling immigration vote Republican? Bush, Armey, McCain, et al. Might as well vote democrat, or not vote at all.

Anonymous said...

Artanis has a point. The skill set will not disappear. They will start smaller companies which concentrate on real technology instead of politics. Big parastatals like Boeing and EADS/Airbus always suck.

Black Sea said...

" . . .the big immigrations will continue because the economy requires highly educated Asians (including Indians and Pakistanis) and low-skilled Latinos to be the housekeepers and gardeners for the high-tech people. These are the people who will largely account for the increased growth of urban areas across America. . . . Even in California, politicians have proven that they lack the will and the ability to stop immigration. . . . Corporations will determine immigration: if they need highly skilled workers in defense and software industries, they will recruit them in one form or another from Asia and other places."

--Orange County real estate consultant Dennis Macheski, quoted in Robert Kaplan's "An Empire Wilderness: Travels Into America's Future" published in 1998

Ronduck said...

Black Sea wrote...

Corporations will determine immigration: if they need highly skilled workers in defense and software industries, they will recruit them in one form or another from Asia and other places."

Here in Mesa we have the Apache Longbow attack helicopter plant. A year or two ago I saw two women walk in speaking a language that I ignorantly thought was German. I asked one of the women and she said she was from Brazil! She also said she was working at the helicopter plant!!! She was pretty fair skinned when I saw her, so I wasn't mistaking a mulatto for a German.

The Fifth Yorkshireman said...

Because, of course, no American wants to become a high tech specialist (for example, a programmer) and make from $40 to $70 / hour.


We have essentially the same (chain, etc.) immigration situation here in Canada as the USA does.

The last full-time job I worked in I.T., in 2006, was on a $40K salary for a Microsoft Certified Partner, toiling under a Russian moron who had earlier worked for the same small company for a couple of months FOR FREE, just to get in line for paying work there. (One of the guys I graduated with in 2001 did the same thing for an online gaming startup outside of Toronto.)

When both immigrants and native-born Canadians (and Americans) are willing to work for free just to get in line for an entry-level job, the $80 - $140K positions are not the ones that are driving entrance to the industry, except maybe as pipe dreams. Few people who graduate with a programming diploma or Comp Sci degree have any realistic hope of ever getting to that pot of gold, even after a decade of experience.

Any advertised junior-programming position today or over the past decade will solicit 500 resum├ęs. And the people who are fortunate enough to find work will start at $35K to $40K, working sweatshop hours in technologies that are obsolete almost as soon as they're released.

"Snark," indeed.