The Skinny


The feds' "virtual fence"--which employs high-tech sensors, radar, cameras and an MP3 player--is a huge success! We know this, because Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff told the press just last month that Project 28, the network of towers down near Sasabe that were equipped with sensors, radar, cameras and other technology, was working just fine.

"I have personally witnessed the value of this system," Chertoff was quoted as saying in an Associated Press dispatch, "and I have spoken directly to the Border Patrol agents who are involved in operating that system over the last few months and who have seen it produce actual results in terms of identifying and allowing the apprehension of people who were illegally smuggling across the border."

What a relief! We kept hearing that Project 28 was riddled with bugs and months behind schedule--which is why the feds had refused to take possession of the $20 million pilot project designed by Boeing as the first part of an electronic web that would play a key role in securing the border.

But turns out that it's now working just fine, which is why Boeing got $20 million and is ready to start work on the rest of its multimillion-dollar contract.

Sure, some critics, like the libs at the Government Accountability Office and The Wall Street Journal, are saying there are snags--like, for example, the virtual fence isn't working as planned and Homeland Security doesn't plan on pursuing another, similar project before 2011.

On the positive side, the GAO report does note that "CBP officials responsible for the program said that although Project 28 will not be replicated, they have learned lessons from their experience that they plan to integrate into future technology development." So it was a valuable learning experience.

And besides, if you listen to CBP Deputy Commissioner Jayson Ahern, Project 28 is working just like it's supposed to. One day after the GAO report came out, Ahern assured reporters last weekend that the project "is working, and it met the requirements."

Don't worry about a thing, even if the cameras can't be controlled by agents as they pursue border crossers. Turns out that wasn't even a good idea, according to Ahern, who said that agents in different areas of the field would just end up fighting over who could control the cameras.

In other words, it's better this way! You know, it reminds us of that old joke about the Microsoft guys ignoring the burned-out light bulb and declaring darkness to be the industry standard.


Visitors and vendors at the downtown farmers' market may have finally caught a break from the ravings of The Asshat who likes to burn Mexican flags.

For the last couple of months, The Asshat--we'd mention his real name, except that would give him the publicity he so desperately desires--has been turning up at the market, held Wednesday afternoons at the downtown library plaza, to deliver his anti-illegal-immigration manifestos through a bullhorn. He's also been vowing to turn "skulls into mush" and make Stone Avenue "run red with blood" if someone enters his magic circle of personal space.

As we recently reported, Alan Ward, who organizes the market, had finally had enough a few weeks ago. He joined forces with another vendor to hold up some umbrellas and tarps to block The Asshat from the crowd.

Trouble ensued, and the cops arrived. Once The Asshat got out of police custody, he marched on down to court to get a no-contact order that required Ward to stay 50 feet away from The Asshat.

A couple of weeks ago, Ward and others decided to screen him out again. This time, Asshat smacked Ward with his bullhorn, which led to Ward being arrested for violating the no-contact order.

About an hour later, Ward says, The Asshat came through the jail, handcuffed and escorted by two Tucson Police Department officers. Ward says the cops had to work hard to make sure they didn't accidentally violate the no-contact order by bringing The Asshat too close to him. Ward stayed put while The Asshat was processed. Then Ward was moved to another area more than 50 feet away while The Asshat took his spot in the holding area.

The reason The Asshat was arrested right after Ward? The Asshat allegedly assaulted a City High student.

TPD Det. Robert Garcia confirmed that Asshat was going to stay away from the market during an investigation, although he couldn't comment on whether his investigation of The Asshat had anything to do with Ward, nor did he discuss what may have happened regarding the City High student. When asked if indeed it was possible The Asshat was not coming back, Garcia said he could offer no guarantees.

"He could be back anytime," said Garcia, who confirmed that The Asshat must stay 1,000 feet from the Bank of America building during the investigation. When will that investigation end? Garcia said he didn't know.

Meanwhile, Ward is heading back to court to quash The Asshat's no-contact order. He has also filed his own no-contact order against The Asshat.

Trouble is, he's not sure if the address on The Asshat's Web site is his legal residence.


The first candidate to file for public dollars in the 2008 legislative races? None other than Republican Al Melvin, who is off and running in his second campaign for the state Senate seat in District 26, which stretches from SaddleBrooke down through Oro Valley and across the Catalina Foothills.

Provided there's no problem with the Clean Elections paperwork, Melvin will be eligible for a check for about $13,000 for his campaign, which has been underway pretty much since he lost in 2006 by about 500 votes to Democrat Charlene Pesquiera, who is expected to seek re-election this year.

Melvin lost the GOP-leaning district because Democrats were able to portray him as too conservative for the district, but that conservative platform helped him knock out incumbent Toni Hellon in the GOP primary. This year, Melvin will have a primary against Rep. Pete Hershberger, who has termed out in the House and is looking to move up the Senate.

We expect Hershberger to put up more of a fight than Hellon did, but he'll still have to counter Melvin's plan to expose Hershberger's "lengthy voting record for more spending, open borders and higher taxes."


Rep. Steve Farley is continuing the push to rescue some of the gargantuan statues at Magic Carpet Golf, the goofy-golf course on Speedway Boulevard that's closed.

Farley is working with folks who want to move whatever they can from Magic Carpet--the last handmade miniature golf course in Arizona--to the Valley of the Moon, the midtown fantasyland that's facing financial problems of its own: the maze of tunnels, bridges and castles, built by the eccentric George Phar Legler back in the 1930s, is in need of repairs. Right now, the Moon people are talking with area residents to decide the best way to spruce the place up, but they're worried that renovations will run into the six figures.

Farley tells us there will be a celebrity golf tourney from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, April 26, at Magic Carpet to raise money for the Valley of the Moon, with music, raffles, food, drink and more. We'll have more details as they become available.

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