SHUTDOWN

It occurs to me that the shutdown of the federal government – the partial shutdown of the federal government – may not be a big deal to you if you (a) don’t live within or near the Washington Beltway or (b) you don’t live near a national monument.

It is very big news here.

The shutdown occurred because the Congress didn’t finish passing spending bills for all the federal departments, agencies, and branches before the money ran out on December 21 (which, as it happens was not only the Winter Solstice and thus the shortest day of the year, but also my 72nd birthday which, happily, came and went with little of the fanfare or drama of the shutdown).

One of the Departments which was not funded was the Department of Homeland Security which, pending the deployment of the First Marine Expeditionary Force (known as the One MEF) out of Camp Pendleton, California, is responsible for border security.

For your planning purposes, the border between the U.S. and Mexico is about 1,933 miles of which 1,240 miles are between Texas and Mexico. As a comparison (and I think we’ve done this before) the border between the U.S. and Canada is twice as long – 3,987 miles – and that doesn’t include the 1,500 miles of border between Alaska and Canada.

If that’s not enough to worry you about foreign invaders, think about the 12,479 miles of coastline that have to be protected against potential foes like the Bahamians or the massed population of Trinidad and Tobago.

I don’t know how much of the border the $5.1 billion Trump is demanding would build. According to Reuters, the Department of Homeland Security (when people were still going to work there) … well, read it for yourself:”President Donald Trump’s ‘wall’ along the U.S.-Mexico border would be a series of fences and walls that would cost as much as $21.6 billion, and take more than three years to construct, based on a U.S. Department of Homeland Security internal report seen by Reuters.”

So, if 1,933 miles of border between the U.S. and Mexico would cost $21.6 billion, that works out to a little over $11 million per mile.

A wall around the whole of the United States (not including Hawaii) protecting some 20,000 miles of borders and coastlines would cost about $216 billion not including tax, title, and dealer prep.

If the entirety of the U.S. were protected by a 20,000 mile wall we could cut down on all manner of smuggling, drug imports, and other illegal activities and the policing necessary to control them.

All we’d need are some gate keepers with keys to let cargo ships into East and West Coast Ports and passenger ships in and out of places like Ft. Lauderdale.

An awful lot of illegal drugs come from where? Mexico. So, if this Omni-Wall could stop the drugs which, according to a New York Times article comes in via:Secret compartments in door panels or the roof, gas tanks, tires and even engines;”Tunnels, “some of which have lighting, tracks and ventilation systems, even elevators. As of March 2016, a total of 224 tunnels were discovered on the Southwest border since 1990;”

“Cargo trains, tractor-trailers and passenger buses;” and

“Small speedboats from Mexico used to smuggle drugs into the United States, particularly in California, in an effort to get around border walls and Border Patrol agents.”

It is not hard to see how preventing these routes with a wall would save tens, perhaps, hundreds of billions of dollars per year in drug interdictions costs thus Mexico, or at least the drug cartels in Mexico, will have paid for the wall.

Five billion is wasted money because all those methods described by the NY Times would go over, under, or around the measly 476 miles of wall we could build with that level of funding.

As you may have heard over the past two weeks, “Bah. Humbug.”

If we’re going to enclose the U.S. let’s do it right. Appropriate the two-hundred-and-something- billion and let’s have at it. Wouldn’t surprise me if the Trump Organization won the bid to build it.

Two final thoughts:

First, in my (long) lifetime, walls have been built to keep people in, from the Jews in Poland in the 1930’s to the entire population behind what Winston Churchill coined the “Iron Curtain,” not to keep people out.

It is not hard to imagine a wall being used here for the same purpose by bad people with bad intentions.

Second, we could supplement the payments from the Mexican drug cartels by selling the Statue of Liberty.

It would no longer have any purpose.

On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the Library of Congress’ issue brief on U.S. Borders, to the NY Times article on how to smuggle drugs into the U.S., and to Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech.The Mullfoto is of an amusing sign outside our favorite Mexican Restaurant in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia.

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