Tuesday, November 07, 2006

All posts were moved (11/2006) to http://mexfiles.wordpress.com

Wagging our weenies across the Rio Grande?

Texas political writers sometimes have it too easy... even if our politicans are fools and crooks, they're always first-rate entertainment. Everyone is familiar with Molly Ivins. Less well known are "Juanita Jean Herownself" who has plenty of comedy material just in Fort Bend County (home of Tom DeLay) and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Bud Kennedy. Kennedy has lately been amused -- or bemused -- by our anti-immigration folks. We don't have to import our wackos from California or Arizona. We are perfectly capable of making fools of ourselves all on our own. Sometimes, we even use our tax dollars to do it. Alien Typo
Texas' border video webcams were unveiled Friday, and so far, all they've caught is one spelling violator. According to our state Homeland Security office, we are supposed to sit at home in our Bermuda shorts and watch eight test cameras, then e-mail if we see any felons or terrorists with dirty bombs sneaking across the Rio Grande. Sure, dude. I'll crank up the computer and tune in today during the football games. Come to think of it, it'd be easier to find the TCU Horned Frogs on TV if they would play in front of the border cams. From what I could tell Friday afternoon from www.texasborderwatch.com, Texas' border is already far more secure. Absolutely no immigration violators will sneak past what appears to be a line of moving cars, the scene from Camera No. 1. Other cameras seemed to show a parking lot and a lake dam near McAllen, all apparently innocent scenes but obviously sensitive locations in the war on terror. I didn't see any intruders on the Web site Friday. But I did call Austin to report one alien speller. For most of the day, the page promised eight webcams and complete "public access." Well -- not exactly. The original Web site dropped a strategic letter from public. Either somebody made a mistake, or Texas was going into the peekaboo video industry. When I called to report this incursion against the English language, nobody in Austin seemed to know how to fix the Web page, much less how to fix the border. "That's not our Web site," said Bryan Bradsby of the state Information Resources Department, the registered source of state government Web pages. With a groan, he added, "I have no power to edit anything on that page." I tried the Texas Department of Public Safety. After all, the Web site bears the state seal and declares that its purpose is "Securing the Border for the People of Texas." I figured the DPS would want to know about a -- er -- public mistake that was borderline embarrassing. "We don't deal with that," said DPS spokeswoman Tela Mange. "You'll have to call the Homeland Security office." The receptionist took a message. I guess it's a good thing I wasn't reporting a terrorist. Finally, I called the Plano company that designed the cameras and Web site. According to a San Antonio Express-News report Friday, TRGear was paid $100,000 for the Web test. It's one of seven companies trying out for a contract to build the state's proposed $5 million "virtual wall" of border webcams, officially the Texas Virtual Neighborhood Border Watch Program. "Can't talk about it," said Jack Woodmansee, a retired Army lieutenant general and president of TRGear, which sells tactical and rescue equipment and operates security services. Not even about bad spelling? "Can't talk about it," Woodmansee said. "You'll have to call Austin." By this time, the entire Web site was overloaded under the weight of 35,000 viewers, all keeping a sharp eye out in case any dope smugglers or terrorists tried to crawl past that line of cars. Eventually, Kathy Walt of the governor's office called back. "This is a stress test," she said. This isn't the final version, she said, "but it's working and people are accessing it." Some of the cameras are focused on fixed landmarks to test the clarity of the webcams, Walt said. Eventually, she said, the cameras will be aimed at locations where law officers find "significant criminal activity," such as drug-running. If we see anything on camera -- after giving an e-mail address and downloading video software -- we're supposed to click an e-mail link marked "Report Suspicious Activity Here." The e-mail will go to a state command post in Austin and also to local authorities. State officers will replay the video and decide whether to respond, Walt said. She didn't know about the misspelling. The embarrassing typo was finally fixed at midafternoon Friday. By then, thousands of CNN viewers had logged in to see the border cameras and giggled at those dumb Texans. Apparently, nobody noticed the mistake for 16 hours. Hope we're better at catching crooks.
The eyes of Tezas are upon yew...


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