Sunday, October 22, 2006

Good-bye to the "world's longest undefended border"

On a trail in Washington State.

One of the best things about growing up in Buffalo, N.Y. was the feeling of intimacy with Canada. Sure, when you went across to Ontario, you knew you were entering someone else's country -- the other side of the Niagara River was a slightly different place. Some people talked funny -- Canadians said "aboot" for "about." But you could enter Canada on a whim and return from without incident. I often sailed a tiny boat across the river and once even swam the mile crossing. Later in life, I used to drive across to run on the Canadian side of the river.

This comfort with what people on both sides boasted was "the world's longest undefended border" is a casualty of our post-9/11 hysteria. I needed a passport to return to the U.S. from Canada in 2002. How strange it felt. We're determined to draw lines -- we have to know who is in and who is out.

Now the "security" boondoggle, the border fence that legislators are paying their corporate cronies to build on the Mexican border, is going to be extended to the Canadian line. The "Department of Homeland Security" (just because there really is an entity with this name is not a reason for me to take that silly moniker out of quotes) promises a high tech fence by 2008. (Bet that completion date will slip if Iraq is any precedent.)

The emphasis on the U.S.-Canada border will be in the West -- Manitoba to British Columbia -- the CBC's Henry Champ said. The U.S.-Canada border may have been included so the project does not look like it was simply aimed at Mexico, he said....

The new system, dubbed SBINet (for Secure Border Initiative Net), will include 1,800 towers up to 80 metres high, Champ said. The towers will receive data from sensors in the ground monitoring the border and pass it on to agents who could then check the location. Sound, motion and infrared sensors would pick up movements, ...

The Boeing contract was valued at $67 million US initially, but could grow. The department said the contract will run for three years, with three possible extensions of a year each. The Bloomberg news service estimated the value could reach $2.5 billion US.

Well, it is clear who has a good deal there.

Meanwhile, unbelievably, our rulers have decided they have to militarize the Great Lakes. Coast Guard cutters are to be equipped with upgraded machine guns -- naturally the service wants to practice using their new hardware. Fishermen are more than a little upset at the declaration of "free fire zones" in Lake Michigan.

The mind reels. So does the New York Times.

As a defense against terrorism, militarizing the Great Lakes is a symbolic defeat. And it is another in a series of incremental changes that threaten to change everything that we take for granted about our country

1 comment:

Pun said...

I'm way confused. How does a "border fence" in a wooded area distinguish between human and animals? Infared, sound, and motion? Do not animals all provide these stimuli? What am I missing, or are BP agents going to be literally chasing rabbits all day?

And I love how the Coast Guard now feels it vital to national security to test-fire machine guns. Because all the AQ guys are coming here on canoes and pontoon boats...

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