Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Bad Fences, Bad Neighbors
Well this one ought to get your all stirred up – how about building hundreds of miles of fences on the border to keep out the Mexicans? Today the US Senate approved a measure to authorize 370 miles of fencing and the House has already approved 700 miles. Naturally, nobody knows where the money – appropriations – is going to come from. It is sure to cost billions by any estimates, not including patrolling and maintaining the suckers.
I already know why folks want such a fence, since it makes the (you fill in the blank here) feel good. “Good fences are good neighbors.”
OK, but at what cost? Sure, border apprehensions in the Tijuana District went from 100,000 a year to a few thousand today, but the coyotes and folks are just moving their routes to Arizona … and coming in bigger numbers and having more deaths in the desert. So, do I get this right, we will build a few hundred miles of fence to make MORE people cross the border and cause more people to die?
May I also remind the humble reader that 700 miles of fencing, as dictated under the House plan, would stretch from Atlanta to Chicago. Wow, that’s a big ole DMZ (demilitarized zone, but extremely militarized). See, plans are for three fences, each behind each other. One is a favorite for the frontline is to use old aircraft landing pads made of steel, which is no longer any good, to make vertical panels. This is so the drug dealers and coyotes can’t crash their vehicles through the fence. The picture shows the welded landing panels at the Pacific side south of San Diego. You can just imagine it at the Gulf where the Rio Grande comes out – you know, the border.
Then, there’s a 12-15 foot fence made of barbed wire, called “Sandia wire” for the inventors at Sandia Labs. Nice touch. The final coup-de-grace is a regular cyclone fence with curved compound wire on top. The entire triple fence system is over 150 feet wide, allowing border patrols and the military to conduct their operations, patrols, and raids. Of course, the fence system is just bristling with motion, light, heat, pressure, and other remote sensing devices, which requires a lot of teckies and geeks. Heck that’s a lot of resources we’re talking here, when you talk about mountains, deserts, streams, cables, computers, and so forth.
My point is not that anything is good or bad – sorry for sounding sarcastic – but that it costs a lot to construct, operate, and then figure out if it did any good for the investment. As a businessman I face these questions every day. For example, over the last week I was going to purchase some data software for $11,000 … that would make me exactly $11,000 in cash, thereby with absolutely no profit. I apologize in advance if I feel that way about this subject too.