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Tilting at Windmills

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June 26, 2010

IT'S NOT JUST RAND PAUL'S IDEOLOGY THAT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE.... When we think of Senate hopeful Rand Paul, we tend to think of his extreme, often-bizarre ideology. But it's worth remembering that the Kentucky Republican has shared some of his policy ideas with the public, and they're bizarre, too.

Republican Senatorial candidate Rand Paul wants to build a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. It's a rather ho-hum proposition in the larger context of conservative ideas -- except that Paul wants that fence to be electric and he wants it built underground.

Among the variety of proposals to stem illegal immigration along the southern border, the construction of an underground electrical fence appears to stand alone on the extreme. There is little contemporary evidence of other Republican officials proposing such a project, even among the most conservative of the bunch. Indeed, when approached in the halls of Senate several weeks ago and asked about the idea (though not told who proposed it), National Republican Senate Committee Chair John Cornyn (R-Tex.) assumed it was a joke.

"I have not heard that," the Texas Republican said. "Underground? What would happen? How would that work?"

For a change, I can relate to Cornyn's confusion. Rand Paul's website boasts of the Senate candidate's plan to build "an underground electric fence," but no one -- not even Paul's allies -- has the foggiest idea what he's talking about. When asked about the proposal, campaign aides won't talk about it.

Does Paul mean some kind of electrified fence that would be shocking to the touch? If so, wouldn't burying it underground defeat the purpose? Or maybe Paul means some kind of invisible, electrified fence -- like those used with outdoor pets? If so, how does Paul propose getting human beings to wear the shock devices?

Maybe he means some kind of electric barrier that would zap people trying to cross? If so, wouldn't people just step over it? Perhaps Paul would want it to be really wide, but given that it's a 2,000-mile border, it would probably cost an enormous amount of money to construct this, if the technology even exists.

In what appears to be the only instance in which Paul elaborated on his idea, the Senate candidate said building the electric fence underground would help avoid the unfortunate symbolism of a Berlin Wall-like structure. That's true, but it doesn't explain how the contraption would work. Paul also said his plan would cost between $10 and 15 million dollars, which is fairly ridiculous on its face.

To the extent that policymakers will try to address immigration policy, the fact that Paul has a nutty idea probably doesn't matter much -- there are plenty of nutty ideas out there, and they're easily ignored. But this is nevertheless a reminder that Rand Paul isn't just an extremist on issues related to the role of government in society; he's even on the fringes of libertarian thought. The seriousness with which he approaches policy issues makes it very difficult to find him credible as a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Steve Benen 10:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (49)

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The seriousness with which he approaches policy issues makes it very difficult to take him seriously as a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

The odds of Paul winning, then, just shot up.

Posted by: erp65 on June 26, 2010 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Anyone who watches enough science fiction can tell you that these things work pretty well. They just need to be invented.

Posted by: qwerty on June 26, 2010 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

It wouldn't prevent illegals entering but it would sterilize them as they passed over, thus obviating the need to repeal the 14th amendment.

Posted by: Bob on June 26, 2010 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

I think Rand is trying to think of a PC word for a huge three thousand mile long superfortified bug zapper. He's always trying to make his ideas "sound" humane.

Posted by: danp on June 26, 2010 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

A 2000 mile fence is too expensive. Paul's brilliant idea fails not in the concept, but in the execution (pun intended).

As is often the case, I have a better idea. Plant some surplus anti-personnel mines in several high traffic crossing points, and set up cameras to catch the hilarious high jinks as unsuspecting Mexicans step on them.

The video will find its way to the internet, and our little brown brothers south of the border will soon realize that coming north is fraught with danger.

-Until they buy some surplus mine detectors, sold by gun dealers in Texas and Arizona. A win-win situation for Capitalism.

Posted by: DAY on June 26, 2010 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

This quote from Paul is in paragraph 3 of the article you link to:

"I think you could actually put an electronic fence under the whole for border for $10 or $15 million, which sounds like a lot to us but that's peanuts. And you could probably have helicopter stations in maybe five different locations, and I think you could have any breach of the border could be stopped at any point and we send them back."

Again, that is in paragraph 3. Presumably, the electronic fence would detect movement across the border, and the helicopters would respond.

I have no idea if that is workable. But is reading comprehension a requisite skill around here? Or is this pure snarkertainment?

Posted by: bob somerby on June 26, 2010 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

I think what Rand has in mind is something like the Invisible Fence you can get to keep your dogs in the yard. They try to cross the border, and get a harmless but distinctly unpleasant shock.

It's a great idea, if we can persuade everybody in Mexico to wear one of the zappy-collar things that make it work. Shouldn't be too hard, right?

Posted by: Cap'n Chucky on June 26, 2010 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Paul isn't too concerned at the moment with the logistics of building the underground electric fence. When the mothership from Alpha Centauri lands, the space aliens that have been communicating personally with him through the fillings in his teeth will know just how to build it.

Posted by: electrolite on June 26, 2010 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Considering technological advances in video surveillance, wouldn't this be the only cost effective answer? Cameras today have the capability to point, tilt, and zoom from remote locations and see for miles. They can also see in the dark.

What Rue Paul is suggesting is using helicopters after the fact of a crossing, whereas a camera will see them coming for miles and affording time before the crossing. The ReBPublicans had 6 years in control and chose to ignore the situation. Now all of a sudden it's a problem when Democrats have complete control. Just another double standard and still no solutions from ReBPublicans and continued whining and stupid ideas.

Posted by: flyonthewall on June 26, 2010 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe he's thinking about those barriers that supermarkets use to keep people from stealing shopping carts. Cross the border and your wheels lock up.

I think it sounds like he wants something like a warning system, but it's the whole "underground electrical fence" thing that makes it sound silly.

Posted by: Mustang Bobby on June 26, 2010 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

This kooky idea is better than his kooky first idea.
He wanted to build giant, electrified, "Mex-zappers" every few miles along the border. They're like giant bug zappers, but instead of a light in the middle, they have signs that offer free tequila, white women, and green cards. Then, when the not-yet illegals approach - ZAP!!!

I heard that what stopped this idea was that they realized they probably couldn't build the giant "Mex-zappers" without using the illegal immigrant labor those devices were meant to discourage.
That, and they had run out of tequila at the brainstorming session that night.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on June 26, 2010 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps he's buying into the loony theory that Sue Myrick (R-NC) espoused yesterday. Seems she thinks that Hezbollah is tunneling (or will tunnel, it's not clear) under the border. Talking Points Memo had an article with her letter to Napolitano. I guess plain old Hispanic aliens aren't scary enough for these people. They get crazier and crazier.

Posted by: Sue on June 26, 2010 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, it might work. For years, the Fearless Leader of my grade school kept all of us in line due to a fear of being sent to her office, where we would be confronted and behindfronted by an "Electric Paddle". No, no one had ever witnessed this, but, we "all knew" it was real and Mrs Lamb would use it upon our rear ends.

Posted by: berttheclock on June 26, 2010 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

Would the electric fence be board-certified?

Posted by: R. Porrofatto on June 26, 2010 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

I'm thinking it's time we just got sharks with lasers to patrol our borders and be done with it.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on June 26, 2010 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

I think what you're missing is that we need illegal aliens to keep wages under control. The point of an underground fence is that we can satisfy people who want a fence without compromising the supply of cheap labor.

Posted by: thaumaturgist on June 26, 2010 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

Just for added irony, betcha he would vote against it if the legislation mandated it be powered by solar, of which there should be plenty along the border.

Posted by: martin on June 26, 2010 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

Can I remind those people who assume that Paul has even a half-way chance of winning that Bunning only won his elections by 2% and .5% and that -- except in 02, when he had an 'invisible opponent' even McConnell has never gotten more than 55.5% in his elections and last year only won by 52.9% to 47.1%

And I continue to point out that McConnell and Republican establishment figures and Congressmen in KY have little love for Paul, and little incentive to go an 'extra mile' or even an 'extra inch' for him.

I know you are getting tired of me saying this, but the important thing is not beating Paul, but using his insanity to beat other Republicans.

Posted by: Prup (aka Jim Benton) on June 26, 2010 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

This is just another lame attempt to really avoid the issue. The biggest example of avoiding the issue is to continually make remarks about "comprehensive reform". This is the code word for both sides of the issue. By using it, it rouses both sides to inaction since it entails solutions neither side can accept. Illegals and amnesty.
Perhaps the best way is to approach it is to break it down into two components.
First, make it a fineable offense of , say $10 to $20,000, for anyone found quilty of employing an illegal. By anyone I mean large and small-those of us who have their grass mowed and those of us who have our berries picked. The fact is that the formost reason illegals come here is to work. If there are no jobs the illegal immigration would be severly curtailed.
Once the illegal immigation is slowed then decide how to deal with the illegal population that is already here. It's for sure that we can't get enough trains, planes and buses to return them all and we probably don't want to return them all.
Why? Because all the above would remind us of the impact they have on our economy and place a value on their presence.
It's quite obvious that both sides of the issue have something to lose if "comprehensive reform" is adopted. Taking the two steps outlined above would , no doubt, piss a lot of people off. It would present an avenue to solving this problem once and for all.

Posted by: fillphil on June 26, 2010 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

I think Rand Paul missed his true calling: writing science fiction. The ReBPublicans are becoming more and more unhinged as time goes on - and seem to be feeding off each other, each trying to top the last guy's insanity.

This fall we need to make sure that adults stay in charge of DC. Even if they disappoint us all too often, it's better than letting the crazies take over.

Posted by: Hannah on June 26, 2010 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

There is technology for monitoring that uses buried fiber optic cable. e.g. BlueRose. Maybe he means something like that. Blue Rose was the Navy version but see TerraEchos in Montana for latest in ground adaptation.

Posted by: Jack on June 26, 2010 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

". The seriousness with which he approaches policy issues makes it very difficult to take him seriously as a candidate for the U.S. Senate."

So will this be your last post on Rand I take it then? Why waste your time on an "unserious" candidate?

It couldn't because he's leading in the polls?

Posted by: Sean Scallon on June 26, 2010 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Rand Paul writing science fiction? Nah -- science fiction needs to be plausible.

Posted by: Bat of Moon on June 26, 2010 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

This is the way the glibertarians talk when they want to offer solutions but really don't have any. Talk about an underground fence that doesn't really work, but sounds good to your constituents. So what's the difference between an underground fence that doesn't work and what we have? About $10 million for somebody, I'd say. We already have motion detectors and cameras along the border and have had since the late 1990s. What we don't have is the number of people to respond to the motion detectors. This is a long border, people, and having the people to respond is building up the Border Patrol immensely - another Big Government plan from a small government ideologue.

Posted by: BC on June 26, 2010 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

The only thing I can think of that makes sense is a buried fiber optic cable "fence". I worked on a version of this a few years ago. The light beamed down the fiber optic cable is sensitive enough to detect motion and the base station can tell you pretty closely where the disruption happened. Plenty of bugs to work out (false positives are a big one), but that is probably what he is talking about...

Posted by: xerixes on June 26, 2010 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

The only thing I can think of that makes sense is a buried fiber optic cable "fence".

And time-domain reflectrometry will tell you exactly where three Mexicans, a backhoe and a pair of bolt cutters put it all out of service....

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on June 26, 2010 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

@qwerty - That's brilliant! Save that one - use it often!

Posted by: Roddy McCorley on June 26, 2010 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

It's a great idea, if we can persuade everybody in Mexico to wear one of the zappy-collar things that make it work.

My first thought when I heard of this was that he doesn't know that you have to wear one of those zappy-collar things to make it work.

Posted by: MaryRC on June 26, 2010 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Large 18th century estates like Mt. Vernon had "ha-ha's", concealed walls or fences that kept the sheep on one side, garden party guests on the other. Nice idea, except perhaps that drunk garden-party guests might fall off the wall.

Posted by: David Martin on June 26, 2010 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

When I was a kid -- so, Before The Turn Of The CENTURY -- I heard a story about someone who put an ad in the Yellow Pages as "Underground Airlines: THE IMPOSSIBLE WAY TO FLY!" as a joke, or maybe a performance art thingie

He got calls from people wanting to book.

I eep for my country.

Posted by: Fleas correct the era on June 26, 2010 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

It's sad- this is the first time I've ever heard Cornyn place more faith in the laws of physics (not real laws, just Google it) than the ideas expressed by a fellow Republican. It's not surprising since Cornyn is a RINO who is probably secretly cozy with evolutionists/environmentalists.

I think it's a good time to examine whether we should be letting Mexicans cross our border because they're after our electrical ground that's higher in America than than the same one they have in Mexico. Aren't Mexicans coming here because they want access to our higher voltage ground? How will we protect our American ground from dropping if charge-carrying Mexicans keep crossing our border for the more desirable electric potential of our American soil?

Since these illegals are just coming here to dump their Mexican electrons in our country, we shouldn't consider these American electrons if they're really illegal Mexican electrons. Build generators along the border and pump these Mexican "anchor electrons" right back into Mexico.

Posted by: maverratick on June 26, 2010 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

This probably helps explain why Paul had to create his own ophthalmalogy licensing board -- he was both too ignorant and too insane for the real one to license him.

Posted by: stinger on June 26, 2010 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

Strange...Republicans are usually putting forth ideas that they've seen on "24". This is the first instance I've heard of one promoting ideas they saw on "LOST".

Posted by: Limbaugh's Diabetes on June 26, 2010 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Rand Paul: "As a senator from Kentucky one of my priorities will be to create a lot of jobs for the people of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California!"

Posted by: The Answer Was Orange on June 26, 2010 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like a remake of the 1956 classic "Forbidden Planet" with Dr. Rand Paul as Dr. Morbius, Sarah Palin as his beautiful and talented daughter and Rush Limbaugh as Robbie the Robot.

Posted by: argus on June 26, 2010 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Since RP won his primary, I haven't noticed any "ideology" from him.
Since Maddow Sliced 'n Diced him, he's been all Slick 'n Slide

Posted by: cwolf on June 26, 2010 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

Ah yes, let's avoid the unfortunate symbolism of a Berlin Wall-like structure, just like we refuse to acknowledge publicly that government policies actually cause soldiers to die. Which side was it that built the wall, Rand? 'Cause I don't think it was the freedom-loving one.

Posted by: rabbit on June 26, 2010 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

An underground fence is the perfect thing to keep out workers in the underground economy.

Posted by: Danny on June 26, 2010 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

Does Paul mean some kind of electrified fence that would be shocking to the touch? If so, wouldn't burying it underground defeat the purpose? Or maybe Paul means some kind of invisible, electrified fence -- like those used with outdoor pets? If so, how does Paul propose getting human beings to wear the shock devices?

The Coneheads Movie is the answer. Some INS agent had a plan for an invisible electrified fence where each Mexican that the US deports gets an unremovable collar put around his neck and if he comes back through the electric field, his head blows up. Just about Rand Paul's speed.

Posted by: majun on June 26, 2010 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

I think it would cost too much to keep the fleet of helicopters he envisions flying, much less prepped and ready 24/7.

I suggest we use some of those big balloon-y Rover things that would get Patrick McGoohan on The Prisoner.

Posted by: biggerbox on June 26, 2010 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

Would we have to pay the people handing out free collars on the Mexican side so the Invisible Mexican Fence will work properly?

Posted by: montag on June 26, 2010 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

Oh YEAH? Make fun of Paul because his understanding of electricity is just slightly less genius-level as his understanding of civil rights?

WELL, I'll have you know that Paul personally had installed an underground electric anti-tiger fence around his place. And it works just great!

So THERE! In your FACE, objectively pro-tiger loozers!

Posted by: Snarki, child of Loki on June 26, 2010 at 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

"Paul also said his plan would cost between $10 and 15 million dollars, which is fairly ridiculous on its face."

Heh, i bet we couldn't post a small sign every 100 feet along the border for that.

Posted by: JeffF on June 27, 2010 at 12:27 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe it's those popup spike thingies. It'll give them a flat in their sneakers.

Posted by: pjcamp on June 27, 2010 at 12:59 AM | PERMALINK

In the same website that discusses underground borders, he also mentions that he wants to put more military bases along the border "instead of renting bases in Europe". This might show an even lower level of understanding of military vs. domestic law enforcement issues, and at the very least, poses questions about his understanding of what the military is for.

Posted by: bigtuna on June 27, 2010 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

All this fuss over an obvious typo!

He didn't say "electric underground fence." He said "eclectic ultrasound tents," that is, way stations where young Mexican women would be selected for pregnancy testing to be sure they're not coming here to give birth to U.S. citizens.

It's really a shame the way Rand Paul's brilliant ideas keep getting garbled.

Posted by: tamiasmin on June 27, 2010 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

fillPhil above has it.

Fine the employers, problem solved.
When illegals cost more than legal immigrants and citizens, they won't be hired.

They send themselves home.
When the labor pool dries up, costs increase, Higher immigration quotas will be demanded by corporate America,

This does not get done because illegals cannot unionize, vote, sue, or report unsafe or illegal practices. It's the best deal they've had since 1865.

Immigration reform will never be tackled because those that favor illegal immigration make a lot of money and our Senate and Congress get their share in a plutocracy such as ours.

Posted by: towearyforoutrage on June 28, 2010 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

maybe he simply means that the fence would extend underground in order to prevent the use of tunnels. but i guess that isn't insulting enough.

Posted by: george on June 29, 2010 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Interesting thoughts here. I appreciate you taking the time to share them with us all. It's people like you that make my day :)

Posted by: Benita Brocklehurst on February 5, 2011 at 4:02 AM | PERMALINK



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