Chris Cowbrough's Around the Ville

Talk about government intelligence. Yes, I am aware that is an oxymoron.The U.S. government, with a serious shortage of cash, but no lack of chutzpah and the ability to make incredibly short¬sighted, stupid decisions totally bereft of even an iota of percep¬tible common sense infused into the equation, is apparently thinking about building a northern border fence with Canada to go with the one on the southern border with No, I Won’t Go To Mexico.What the Peso? They don’t even play hockey in Mexico!WTF, Janet Napolitano! In case you’ve been living in a cave or North Dakota, Janet Napolitano is the Secretary of Homeland In¬security.I’ve got a better idea. Let’s build a fence around Washington, D.C. and not let our beloved Parliament of Whores out until they come up with some plausible, coherent plan for getting us out of the economic mess they helped get us into.You are right. I am dreaming.Apparently and allegedly, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Cartel has proposed the use of “fencing and other barriers” on the 49th parallel to manage “trouble spots where passage of cross-border violators is difficult to control.”For sure, there must be a lot of “trouble spots” on a 5,500-mile border. That’s a pretty rough crowd of tourists coming down from Saskatoon and Regina. We’ve already seen a six-fold increase in federal agents patrolling at or near the U.S.-Canada border since that fateful, life-changing day of Sept. 11, 2001. What’s a little more fence among friends?According to somebody else’s math, nearly 3,800 Customs and Border Protection officers inspect people and their possessions at these often beefed up border crossings and ports of entry (and exit). The number of Border Patrol agents working between crossings along the 49th Parallel has skyrocketed 700 percent since Sept. 11, 2001.Some would say that’s wretched excess. Still others don’t think it’s enough. My question is, when is enough too much? Yes, the government’s idea of dealing with a problem is to throw vast amounts of money at it to see if it sticks. Yes, Homeland Insecurity certainly is a growth industry these days. Admittedly, that overabundance of Border Patrol personnel on the Canadian border is pretty reassuring and comforting. After all, you never know when Ottawa might declare war on us and invade. I wonder if that declaration of war would be made in French or English, eh?For sure, the pot heads with all that B.C. Bud and the scumbags who traffic in human cargo are finding it a whole lot more difficult and challenging since the world’s longest peaceful border became so populated (at least on the U.S. side) with Homeland Insecurity personnel. I’m sure glad that War On Drugs And Thugs is working out so well.Under the heading of “Tactical Security Infrastructure,” Customs and Border Protection talks about expanding access roads and building additional barriers at “selected points” along the border to deter and delay cross border violators.”And let’s jack of the tech…what the heck?Hopefully, we aren’t talking about some of the few U.S. citizens who actually run the gauntlet at the border and don’t pay the GST on those Canadian purchases. Yes, by all means—we must increase the rate of interdiction (no, interdiction is not usually performed in the privacy of your own bedroom).After all, there are more than a few of the increasing number of Customs and Border Patrol personnel who simply don’t have much to do on a given day. Put them to work building that fence between NHL Canada and NHL U.S.What a conundrum--all those fun government toys and nothing much to do.Yes, it is a great gig if you can get it. The problem is, you’ll probably have to start working the southern border before that transfer to the Nirvana North.While our government denies that it is seriously considering a northern border fence, at least right now (believe that at your own peril), we are flying those pesky Predator drones around our borders with the Great White North. I don’t know how many Al-Qaeda operatives we need to target on the Canadian border, but you can’t be too safe in this dangerous world. There is nothing that says safety (or assassination) like a Predator Drone. Just ask Al-Qaeda leader Anwar Al-Awlak, who was killed in Yeman recently by a Predator drone air strike. Oops. My bad. You can’t ask him. He’s dead. Whatever happened to the laid back folks at those rural border crossings (on both sides) who would pretty much wave you through?Go into Canada now (and then try to get back) and the scrutiny is both invasive and annoying. But yes, I probably do need to be protected from myself. You never know when my bag of golf clubs could be hiding a golf shoe bomb, a bag of high grade B.C. Bud or one too many boxes of Kokanee.I’m sorry, but when I see a Canadian maple leaf these days…well, it looks suspiciously like a marijuana leaf to my jaded perspective. Yes, it must have to do with my recent vision issues. Maple leaves and that dreaded marijuana…they are both pretty much deciduous, aren’t they?Yes, of course. I want to be protected from possible Canadian Jihad. You just never know. I can’t believe that the heightened security is doing much for across the border commerce or any of that goodwill hunting, either. I know the Loonie has taken a little dive, but we still ap¬preciate seeing the influx of our Canadian brothers and sisters patronizing local businesses. There is something in the works between Ottawa and Washington called the Beyond The Border joint initiative. Its purported purpose is, in part, to improve border security and trade through cooperation.That’s a novel concept. For sure, more Canadians each year visit the U.S. each year than U.S. citizens visit Canada. Statistically, a third of Canadian GDP is linked to trade, tourism and investment in the U.S.I doubt that turning the northern border crossings into armed camps is helping with the commerce any. I know—security trumps collegiality and commerce.But I wonder when heightened security becomes heightened paranoia. I think the term the Homeland Insecurity folks use now for the heightened scrutiny on the border is that it’s been increasingly “thickened.”Something has been thickened, alright. Somebody’s a little thick, for sure. The heightened security, to a point, is understandable. But we can never, either on a personal basis or as a nation, be entirely safe. It would be nice if our government had a better grasp of the Common Sense and Practical initiative. But I digress—and I dream.When it comes to security after 9/11, and yes, we are still acting on and reacting to 9/11, our government and Homeland Insecurity, would seem to be prone to excess.The U.S. government and its excesses…where do we start with that discussion? Iraq…Afghanistan? Bailing out Wall Street instead of Main Street? Just thinking about our government’s lack of foresight, insight and its inability to deal with much of anything that doesn’t involve a gun-sight…well, it’s depressing. More personnel…more patrols…more expensive toys…more multi-million-dollar Border Patrol stations in hinterlands and wonderlands like Colville. Why don’t we work at interdiction where it counts—with a focus on those arriving in North America, not with Joe Tourist trying to get from Kamloops to Colville, or Deer Park to Salmon Arm. But what do I know? I’m just a cranky, frustrated small town newspaper editor/publisher who loves his country very much, but who knows we could (and must) do much better and be a whole lot smarter about the decisions we make when it comes to security…both domestically and on the world stage.