Surely I’m Not the First to Observe This!


I was expecting Andy Borowitz or someone to be all over it, but the media is full of derisive howling at Dotard Donald and his petty White House invitation Gaffe. The really mythological part of his comments was when he started talking about solar power and the wall.

Many places report drily about this amazing statement: [cbs]

Question: You were joking about solar, right?
Trump: No, not joking, no. There is a chance that we can do a solar wall. We have major companies looking at that. Look, there’s no better place for solar than the Mexico border — the southern border. And there is a very good chance we can do a solar wall, which would actually look good. But there is a very good chance we could do a solar wall.

One of the things with the wall is you need transparency. You have to be able to see through it. In other words, if you can’t see through that wall — so it could be a steel wall with openings, but you have to have openings because you have to see what’s on the other side of the wall.

And I’ll give you an example. As horrible as it sounds, when they throw the large sacks of drugs over, and if you have people on the other side of the wall, you don’t see them — they hit you on the head with 60 pounds of stuff? It’s over. As crazy as that sounds, you need transparency through that wall. But we have some incredible designs.

You’d better cover up that tattoo Mr President.

It’s The Emperor’s New Wall. He’s going to point at an empty piece of desert and say, “look at my amazing transparent wall! Hey, ‘Fake News Guy’ can you get the camera so the light’s reflecting off of it?”

The emperor’s new wall is going to be 100 feet high – but it’ll be invisible – that way the drug guys who are flying drones over it will fly into it and their drones will crash because they can’t see it.

Now, what Trump is referring to as “incredible designs” are the responses from a call that went out from the royal seneschal to all the tailors in the land, requesting and requiring that they propose raiment for his highness. Some of the responses are creative, sort of a “F you!”, e.g.: Otra Nation’s “hyperloop non-wall” – which would basically be like a kind of F-35/DoD research project: “We’ll tell them we’re building a weapons system but actually we’re doing research on hyperloops.”

Otra Nation’s non-wall hyperloop wall proposal

It’s still enough to make the oligarchy happy: they can zoom along in hyperloop comfort (which is stupid, because they already zoom around in perfectly good private jets!) and they don’t have to come into contact with hoi polloi.

Gleason Partners’ solar panel wall

Then there’s Gleason Partners’ “might as well make lemonade out of all these lemons!” wall design, which would be pretty good except that any “bad dude” worth his salt would put a couple bullets into some of the power-feed systems and watch the whole thing fry. Or maybe the “bad dudes” who are catapulting drugs over the wall (WTF is Dotard Donald talking about!?) would be too afraid to lob a few rocks at the damn thing just for fun.

What the idiot in the Oval Office doesn’t understand is that if he’s dead set on triggering a border war, he should be thinking of something that looks more like the De Lattre Line [wik] except the De Lattre line was only 250 miles (and didn’t slow the Vietcong down noticeably) and the Maginot Line, which was 280 miles (and didn’t slow the Germans down noticeably) – there’s a pattern here: fixed emplacements are pretty easy to defeat; they just cost money.

“All along the watchtower, Princes kept the view.”

One of the other suggestions for Trump’s wall was classically-inspired:

Crisis Resolution Security Services’ suggestion

The dirt glacis seems like a bad idea; it’s just inviting undermining. There was another wall built to that design, at incredible expense, which didn’t slow the Mongols down noticeably.

The story about how the Mongols allegedly breached the wall in China goes something like this:
Mongols ride up to the wall; it’s a small horde but they are very hard-looking warriors indeed.
Chinese Wall Defender: “Can we help you?”
Mongol Spokeshorde: “Yes, we’d like to come through.”
Chinese Wall Defender: “I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
Mongol Spokeshorde: “Listen, (shows Defender a big bag of gold) you can let us in and have this big bag of gold to divide up among the survivors, otherwise we’re going to be tired and grumpy when we get over your wall, and we’re going to relax in the shade while we do horrible stuff to you. It’s your call but it’s hot, sweaty, weather out here and the guys would prefer to play some hackey-sack and have a barbecue tonight, rather than spend the whole night climbing the wall and impaling you all…  Whadda you say?”
Chinese Wall Defender: “Hang on, we’ll be right down.”

Now, the imperial American wall wouldn’t be guarded by such staunch defenders, nor would they be attacked by such ruthless hordes. It’d go more like:
American Wall Defender: “Can we help you?”
Bad Dude: “Yeah, we got the weekly split; your take’s 10% or your kids collect on daddy’s insurance.”
American Wall Defender: “Hang on, let me open the gate.”

This is fun! It’s sort of like what happened on the Maginot Line, where a load of panzergrenadiers with flamethrowers and superior tanks showed up:

Maginot Line Defender: “Bonjour messieurs!”
Panzergrenadier Spokes-flamethrower-guy: “Do we have to do this?”
Maginot Line Defender: “Bienvenue dans La France!”

Clayton Industries’ Suggestion

Clayton Industries suggested using the wall to store radiological waste. I’m particularly impressed by this one because it means that anyone who was willing to do some wiring and light demolitions work could have their very own radiologic dispersion bomb, near whatever American city the wall runs near. I don’t want to seem defeatist (OK, actually, I do) but this seems like a whole lot of “nope.”

Jennifer Meridian’s wall proposal

Artist Meridian suggests a wall made of 3 million hammocks and 10 million pipe organs. Somehow I think she’s not serious. But it would be cool if they had some wind chimes, too.

The suggestions are here [trib] and, I’m sad to say, some of them aren’t pure trolling; it looks like there are the usual money-hungry authoritarian bootlickers who want to make a quick billion or two.

A drug flinging catapult that was seized by mexican army

The whole idea that people need to be able to see through the wall so they don’t get hit on the head with 60-lb bales of drugs is absolutely imagination-beggaring. When I hear that I was, literally, dumbfounded and gobsmacked at the same time. It’s one of the stupidest things that has ever been said, anywhere, any time. First off, it presupposes that the Bad Dudes with catapults are somehow sneaking the catapults up and shooting them where they know border guards are, which is simultaneously a Bad Dude Fail and a Border Guard Fail. Would someone give those Bad Dudes a cheap radio controlled camera drone so they can target their artillery better?

That thing can’t fling 60-lb of drugs; maybe 5 or 10. And did you notice the date on that video? 2011. By now, the drug smugglers are going to be using custom-made octocopters; they can lift 30-40lb pretty easily and if you make your own you can leave out things like blackout flight areas and distances – a custom octo like this could easily carry 20lb of drugs 2-3 miles behind a border, at an altitude of 1000ft. Someone who wants to do a really nice  one could make one that would navigate in the dark using GPS coordinates; it could land right in the back of your pickup truck. Then you drive somewhere, unload it, recharge the batteries, put the switch to “home” and it vanishes into the night sky.

Heavy lift octo [source]

Part of the problem with security people in particular, and stupid people in general, is that all too often we are prepared to fight the last battle. (The one we lost!) We don’t step back and ask what the enemy’s response will be if we develop a better strategy – what kind of response will the enemy come up with and how much has our new strategy set them back? To go back to the example of the Chinese Wall:

Chinese Wall Defender: “Can we help you?”
Mongol Spokeshorde: “Yes, we’d like to come through.”
Chinese Wall Defender: “I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
Mongol Spokeshorde: “Listen, (shows Defender a big bag of gold) you can let us in and have this big bag of gold to divide up among the survivors, otherwise we’re going to be tired and grumpy when we get over your wall, and we’re going to relax in the shade while we do horrible stuff to you. It’s your call but it’s hot, sweaty, weather out here and the guys would prefer to play some hackey-sack and have a barbecue tonight, rather than spend the whole night climbing the wall and impaling you all…  Whadda you say?”
Chinese Wall Defender: “We have a new political overseer from the city to make sure we don’t take bribes, even if you threaten us with our lives. It’s … complicated. So I must say (tentatively) ‘No!'”
Mongol Spokeshorde: (sighing) “Hang on, we’ll be right up.”

It’s too late to put my suggestion in, but if I did, it would have been to do an imaginary wall. Or maybe hire Vik Muniz to simply delineate the border, take a picture of it from space, and go, “SEE?!” [vik] The imaginary wall’s the best; I think I could make the whole thing for under $20 million.

Vik Muniz “Earthworks” backhoe and dirt

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It occurs to me that if they ever did build a wall, it would be incredibly fun to troll the crap out of the wall defenders using high-flying quadcopters. Most of the anti-copter stuff depends on overriding the control signals but an autonomous GPS-programmed one would have its fingers stuffed in its “ears” the whole time “la, la, la!” You could have a tremendous amount of fun for about $200/drone. Oh, the shit-fits you could cause! Don’t use this idea to deliver bars of soap to the White House. Just, don’t.

When I was in basic training I got in a small amount of trouble (I was only a suspect, and was not caught) because someone kept shooting out the range-lights whenever we got the order to fire. Since I was the only person in the company that could shoot that well, I was naturally a suspect. Fortunately for me, my targets always had bullet holes equal to the number of rounds I’d been issued. [Here’s how that worked: people who got jams would eject live rounds which would just lie there in the sand by the firing pit; it was pretty easy to pick them up and hand-feed them really quickly when the bolt of the rifle was locked back.]

Comments

  1. kestrel says

    I’m still waiting to hear – what side of the Rio Grande is this stupid wall supposed to be built on? Christ of the Andes. What an amazingly dumb-ass idea.

    I’m voting for Marcus’ imaginary wall. That’s the best idea of all. Marcus should be given $20 million immediately. (Also, the Partner says “well done!” on that very last part.)

  2. says

    kestrel@#1:
    I’m still waiting to hear – what side of the Rio Grande is this stupid wall supposed to be built on? Christ of the Andes. What an amazingly dumb-ass idea.

    That’s why my imaginary wall idea is so awesome! We can build it right down the middle of the river! And it can be 200 feet high.

  3. komarov says

    I’m still waiting to hear – what side of the Rio Grande is this stupid wall supposed to be built on?

    Didn’t some official (or officious) guy already suggest they might put it in the middle of the river? It shall be the first hydroelectric-solar border wall in history. Also the last.

    Regarding rock-lobbing baddies who’d break the solar panels, there is an easy solution to this: Just push the Mexico-US border south until it is below the equator. That way the solar panels will have to be mounted on the northern (US) side, basically facing inwards. Meanwhile, the south side can be good old rock-proof concrete.* Problem solved! Now someone just has call the Pentagon and have them mobilise some tank divisions so we can move that border…

    Oh, one downside of that plan is that it will result in record numbers of illegal Mexican (among others) immigrants that will have to deported to … somewhere.

    *What are the odds of getting a billion-dollar grant from the Trump administration to develop transparent/invisible concrete? I know how to spell chemistry and therefore consider myself qualified.

    Another proposal I could come up with is the Human Fence. Just have people link hands along the entire border. It’ll create lots of jobs – I wouldn’t be surprised if they had to hire migrant workers to help out – and is more sustainable than any construction project because those people were going to exist one way or another.
    It would also be the first building in the world that can be redesigned on a whim simply by issuing memos and changing work policies. Don’t like the old wall design? New dress code. Border moved (maybe because of advancing tank batallions)? Everyone take two steps forward, please (and five back as the tables turn).

    There’s great synergy with the hyperloop-wall, too, since people will need to get to their assigned positions.

  4. Dunc says

    By now, the drug smugglers are going to be using custom-made octocopters

    The amateurs might be. The pros use semi trucks and containerized shipping like every other import / export business. They just have somewhat higher customs fees.

  5. komarov says

    Re: Marcus Ranum (#3):

    That’s why my imaginary wall idea is so awesome! We can build it right down the middle of the river! And it can be 200 feet high.

    But how deep will it go? Some Trump-voters are very concerned about illegal mole-people entering the US. At least they will be once I mention ‘mole-people’ to them.

  6. says

    komarov@#4:
    Oh, one downside of that plan is that it will result in record numbers of illegal Mexican (among others) immigrants that will have to deported to … somewhere.

    My former strategic genius plan was to offer Mexico statehood. Clearly, the cat’s out of the bag and they’d never fall for that one anymore. So the other alternative is to give Texas back to Mexico.

    *What are the odds of getting a billion-dollar grant from the Trump administration to develop transparent/invisible concrete? I know how to spell chemistry and therefore consider myself qualified.

    What is it they call it in Star Wars? Plascrete. I’m pretty sure someone could photoshop up some brochures that’d fool whatever golf-playing dipstick Trump puts in charge of the project.
    1) Lie a lot
    2) ??
    3) Profit!

  7. says

    Dunc@#5:
    The amateurs might be. The pros use semi trucks and containerized shipping like every other import / export business. They just have somewhat higher customs fees.

    Well, yeah. At the point where you’re that professional you’re not a “drug smuggler” you’re an import/export business, and it’s all OK.

  8. cartomancer says

    Surely the only sensible material for a great big scary wall is the ground bones of your enemies? Does Trump have any transparent enemies? (he certainly seems to have enemies of every other colour)…

    Or how about they just play a certain Pink Floyd album non-stop from speakers on posts in the general vicinity of the Mexico border?

  9. says

    cartomancer@#11:
    Or how about they just play a certain Pink Floyd album non-stop from speakers on posts in the general vicinity of the Mexico border?

    Someone should have proposed that. I gigantic wall with the teacher puppet breaking through…

  10. says

    Caine@#10:
    *coughs* Transparent Aluminum.

    See, that’s what happens to people like me who’ve only ever seen the OST and who deny the further existence of the franchise. Teach the controversy!

    Although, since it’s got Scotty in it, I’ll accept it.

  11. Dunc says

    Marcus @13: Seriously? Oh man… DS9 is one of the best sci-fi shows ever, and certainly the best Trek. First couple of seasons are patchy, and yeah, there’s some real clunkers even later on, but when its good, it’s really, really good. You’re missing out.

  12. komarov says

    I considered transparent aluminum* but didn’t want to risk litigation from an incensed star fleet engineer with a vulcan legal advisor. Besides, it’s probably difficult to secure that grant from the White House when someone show Trump the very clip Caine linked. “It was invented decades ago!!!”

    But I’ll second Dunc. There’s more to Star Trek than the original and you are definitely missing out. I actually liked the lot of it, even though there indeed are ‘patchy’ bits. Still, there are more good movies, too, especially if you ignore the reboot rubbish. Let me close by hitting the hornet’s nest with a mallet and say that Picard’s the best captain. Period.

    *I’ll let the missing ‘i’ go this once because it’s clearly a compound of some sort and not an allotrope of the element, aluminium.

    (courtesy of https://www.antipodesmap.com/ )

    Bless the internet, it’s full of silliness.

  13. says

    komarov@#15:
    Picard’s the best captain

    I’m sure! I’ve been a fan of him since he played Sejanus in I, Claudius. He can act, which can loosely be said of Shatner, who is a very special individual in his own right.

  14. says

    Marcus:

    See, that’s what happens to people like me who’ve only ever seen the OST

    It is original series, just when they went to movies instead of teevee.

  15. Dunc says

    It’s mostly just because there’s so much of it.

    Yeah, I can certainly relate to that… If it helps, you can skip the whole of Voyager and Enterprise without really missing much, and TNG is sufficiently episodic that you could do a “best of” in more-or-less any order. DS9 is tricky because it has things like extended narrative arcs and actual character development…

    I also wouldn’t say you’re missing much if you don’t watch any of the movies.

  16. komarov says

    I’m sure! I’ve been a fan of him since he played Sejanus in I, Claudius. He can act,

    Oh, I almost forgot about that, so it might be time for a re-run, if I can fit that in somewhere.* I try to avoid fandom where actors and celebrities are concerned, but if I had to pick someone Stewart would be a good choice. I’m actually watching a bit of TNG at the moment and Picard-heavy episodes tend to be favourites of mine.

    *I wonder what I, Claudius would look like if it was (re-)made today. On the other hand I probably don’t want to find out.

  17. says

    komarov@#23:
    I wonder what I, Claudius would look like if it was (re-)made today. On the other hand I probably don’t want to find out.

    I’m sure Justin Timberlake will be fine as Sejanus, though I question whether Taylor Swift was a good casting for Livia. Daniel Radcliffe will do OK as Claudius, but I really worried when I heard that Michael Bay was directing it and there is going to be an extended chariot-chase scene.

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