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December 7, 2006

Firepower on the Great Lakes
Posted by Teresa at 03:00 PM *

Since Jim has put up his post about passports on the Canadian border, I feel a little braver about this one. I wrote it at the beginning of September of this year, then talked myself into not posting it. I still wonder whether I’m being too easily spooked.

If I get any more froward with my paranoias, I’ll have to dig out that old unpublished post of mine speculating about whether Bush is planning to use nukes on Iran. —TNH

==============

05 September 2006: For some time now I’ve been twitchy about news stories that suggest the possibility that the U.S. government might try to limit the ability of its citizens to travel out of the country.

The latest one is a report from the London (Ontario) Free Press saying that U.S. Coast Guard ships operating in the Great Lakes have been equipped with machine guns that can fire 600 rounds a minute, and that they now want to test-fire them in 34 “safety zones”:

Now that it has armed its boats with machine guns, the U.S. Coast Guard wants to test-fire them on the Great Lakes.

While the Coast Guard prefers to call the 34 test-fire areas “safety zones,” a spokesperson concedes they’re designed to provide “operational readiness” for national security, defence and maritime law enforcement. He also conceded there’s no plan to alert Canadian boaters or harbourmasters to the tests.

One of the test-firing areas is barely 20 kilometres north of Sarnia and the move has so upset Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley, he’s appealing to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to stop it.

“The world’s longest undefended border no longer exists,” Bradley said, adding he’s “stunned” at the development that follows an agreement to allow arming Coast Guard cutters.

No one’s going to invade the United States through the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes. If they did, our primary line of defense wouldn’t be Coast Guard cutters with machine guns. And if terrorists were trying to slip into the U.S. from Canada, they wouldn’t do it in ways that warranted a 600-rounds-per-minute response from routine patrol boats.

All this firepower is going to be limited to the American side of the lakes. I can only think of one thing an armed Great Lakes Coast Guard would actually be good for: stopping boats leaving the American side for Canada.

Will someone please show me how I’m just being paranoid?

Comments on Firepower on the Great Lakes:
#1 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 03:12 PM:

I can think of another reason for all this: budgets.

The Coast Guard are competing for AbteilungDerHeimatSicherheit funding along with every other badge-toting organization. Look out for miniguns and missiles on patrol boats next, since those will cost even more, will require more training and test-firing, and will soak up even more DepHomeSec funds which would otherwise be frittered away on Mexican Walls for the Immigration people, Automated Targeting Systems for Airport Security, Geiger Counters in BATF agents wrist-communicators or whatever cool-sounding nonsense the more imaginative people in other agencies dream up.

#2 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 03:14 PM:

Maybe Bush is thinking about invading Canada?
The preventing Americans from leaving scenario could also be plausible if things got bad enough.
It could also be Yet Another Episode of Security Theater.

BTW, the "safety zones" link doesn't go anywhere.

#3 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 03:22 PM:

JC, that link was a chimera. The old post had been formatted in Textile, and my punctuation at that point accidentally invoked Textile's codes for "this next bit is a link." I've recoded it for straight HTML.

#4 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 03:24 PM:

Why would you be paranoid? On the TV they just said we won the war. There's lots of celebrating, music and silly poetry.

Say, why is this guy next to me playing chess and crying in his vodka? I mean, it's a stupid poem, "Under the spreading chesnut tree..."

#5 ::: breeamal ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 03:30 PM:

The nice thing about paranoia is you only have to be right once to make it all worthwhile.

God Bless George Bush for justifying years of paranoia.

#6 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 03:36 PM:

They're going to be firing guns without telling boaters on the other side of the lake. Will somebody who knows about the range of those guns please tell me that's not going to result in dead Canadians?

#7 ::: Steve ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 03:48 PM:

The Coast Guard seems to serve as a major weapon in the war on drugs, such as it is. I think, if pressed, that is the rationale they would use for arming the cutters with machine guns.

Though, of course, guns can be aimed at anyone.

#8 ::: Jamie Hall ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 03:50 PM:

I can think of another reason: fake threats. The more inane things you can keep people worried about, the less attention they can spend noticing real problems. Divert attention, and give the conspiracy mills so much random, weird grist that they can't even come up with plausible theories for it all. Then you discredit the conspiracy people, along with diverting attention.

#9 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 03:52 PM:

Are they planning to send gunboats to Lake Veronica? After all, during the Cold War, Eastern-European spies could often be found in the area.

#10 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 03:58 PM:

When Emma and I last went to Canada, we were stopped first on the US side and asked to show our passports. I wrote about it in when you leave a police state. Coming back into the US, we were again asked to show our passports. Since I was expecting that, and since getting arrested at a US customs house once was plenty, we just showed the passports with asking what would happen if we didn't have them.

The US is planning to enforce having passports when traveling to Canada soon; last I heard, the exact date hasn't been chosen. When that happens, the only Americans who'll visit Canada will be the ones with the money to spend on passports.

#11 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:02 PM:

Oops, typo: "we just showed the passports without asking what would happen if we didn't have them."

#12 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:06 PM:

#6 -- The maximum range of your M60 7.62mm machine gun is 2.3 miles. The maximum range of your M2 .50 cal. machine gun is 4.2 miles.

#13 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:09 PM:

Treason! Someone has defamed the Republic of Gilead's Geheimstaatsicheritätsbüro by claiming that there are no real threats justifying a 600-rounds-per-minute weapon! Pass me that roll of duct tape, will ya?

#14 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:14 PM:

More links:

US machine-gun fire suspended on Great Lakes.

DHS reopens comment period on proposed establishment of permanent "safety zones" (firing areas)throughout the Great Lakes.

DHS review of 2004 Coast Guard budget, in which the Great Lakes are mentioned only in connection with icebreaker operations.

And ... do I remember correctly, that bullets can sometimes travel a surprising distance over water?

#15 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:24 PM:

Speaking of "permanent safety zones," that sounds much more user-friendly than "free-fire zones," doesn't it?

("Safety zone" means "If you enter this zone, you aren't safe.")

#16 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:24 PM:

OK, so how far away does a small pleasure craft become invisible to an armed gunboat? And contrariwise, will a small pleasure craft be able to see the armed gunboat in time to duck?

#17 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:32 PM:

Teresa quotes: permanent "safety zones" (firing areas) throughout the Great Lakes

Safety Zone: an area in which 7.62mm rounds fired freely at 600 rounds per minute make things permanently safe.

#18 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:36 PM:

OK, I'll try and dispel some of the paranoia, by putting on my (old and faded) US Navy hat. Most of these "gunboats" are 20-ft open boats equipped with a single medium machine gun. The effective range of the gun is under 1,000 yards, and the boat isn't capable of offshore operations (i.e., don't get out of sight of land).

The boats are designed for in-harbor defense - some nut hijacks / attacks a ship in harbor. That's actually why they need 34 firing ranges - the boats are so short-ranged that you have to have a firing box basically within a few miles of the Coast Guard station.

I do tend to agree that some of the rationale for Great Lakes harbor defense units is "more toys for boys." However, the Coast Guard is re-organizing itself, and part of that re-org is to create deployable units, such as harbor defense. Since these boats fit nicely when attached to trailers on pickup trucks (or in C-130s) some of these units will undoubtedly get deployed.

And some already are - Coast Guard boats of this type are providing harbor security and protecting inshore oil fields in Iraq and Kuwait. A few months back, a suicide boat blew up alongside a coastie in Iraq, killing the crew.

#19 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:39 PM:

Iraq, Kuwait, the Great Lakes:

One of these things is not like the others, one of these things is not the same...

#20 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:41 PM:

Jim is correct - the maximum range a bullet of these types will travel is 2-4 miles. Even Rambo couldn't actually hit anything much past half a mile (hence "effective range" = "range at which I could hit something smaller then the planet on which I am standing.")

#21 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:44 PM:

If it ever got to the point where one were considering surreptitiously fleeing the country into Canada, why would you cross on a boat over the Great Lakes? Sure, it means you're not stuck on a particular road, but boats are slow and pretty easy to spot, and it takes a while to get across those lakes.

If you're bringing a lot of stuff with you, there's large stretches of border (such as in the western prairies) that can be crossed easily and quickly on an off-road vehicle without having to use the paved roads. If you're not bringing stuff with you, there are lots of places to walk across on land, or cross on a small boat on small rivers and/or lakes that patrol boats can't get into.

If things ever did get to the _It Can't Happen Here_ level anyway (which features a family trying to flee into Canada at one point, and getting stopped on one of the roads near the Vermont border) I'd think either that there would be other sections of the border one could try with more success, or if it was so bad that you couldn't do that either, Canada wouldn't be far enough to flee to.

#22 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:51 PM:

Niall - two points.
1) Deployable means, "leave your homeport and go" to places like Iraq.
2) After the US Air Force got caught with their pants down on 9/11 (two armed jets for the entire East Coast) there's a certain reluctance to assume that "it can't happen here." How hard is it to rent / buy / steal a speedboat, pack it full of explosives, and ram a barge full of hazardous chemicals? Or try to blow a bridge support?

#23 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:52 PM:

OK, so how far away does a small pleasure craft become invisible to an armed gunboat?

Depends on the time of day, the weather conditions, your height of eye, the other vessel's target angle, and the other vessel's height. Short answer: it varies.

The real question is, how good is that small craft's navigation. Do they reliably know when you're in a safety zone or not?

#24 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:53 PM:

We have these things around here (seattle) providing escorts to the ferry boats when ever there's a racheting up of the threat levels. I've seen them on the Seattle-bainbridge run a lot, and a couple times on the Whidbey island run.

They're smallish boats or very largish zodiacs here, twin 100+hp motors, and a swivel gun mount on the front. I'd say that they're in the 20-25 foot range, with no cabin to speak of, just a central spot for someone to stand and drive. And they're fast.

My guess is that they're trying to prevent the equivalent of the USS Cole attack against a passenger vessel, but that they're also quite handy for dealing with drug smuggling and drunk boating.

#25 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:56 PM:

Since the US authorities can't patrol their entire Southern border where people are trying to cross illegally, I think it's absolutely ridiculous for them to imagine they need to close their whole Northern border where crossings are generally perfectly legal.

On past form, this means that's certainly what they do think.

#26 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 05:01 PM:

Niall @ 25 - I actually agree completely. Our southern border is a mess. The current administration seems to be suffering from a permanent cranial-rectal inversion regarding illegal immigration (in general) and border control (in particular).

I will point out that the US Coast Guard has nothing to do with patroling the Arizona desert.

#27 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 05:13 PM:

Someday I'll have to tell you about the time the Minutemen (or whatever that band of loonies is that hangs out along the Mexican border calls itself) came to Pittsburg, New Hampshire, to guard against Illegal Canadians.

#28 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 05:13 PM:

Chris,

I think your first point is a genuine new reason Teresa may be being paranoid: this may be stealth equipment and training of units intended for deployment in, frex, Iraq.

Your second point: I might believe that if the ports were secure against container nukes, anyone gave a shit about the anthrax-mailer, any cash had been spent on water-supply protection, or anything at all had been done about the long list of obvious targets in the US that aren't aeroplanes.

#29 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 05:15 PM:

Of course it's just a bit of security theatre and toys-for-boys. Those guys in the Coast Guard must have been feeling left out of all the fun.

Trouble is, giving guns to coastguards is like giving tasers to security men; sooner or later they're going to use them in unjustified cases, simply because they've got them, so they're an option in any situation.
Since there aren't any terrists on the Great Lakes, and never will be, the guy who gets the 600-rounds-per-minute won't be an evil raghead, he'll just be some poor schmuck who's off course, or drunk, or both, and maybe hasn't tuned his radio to the right channel.

Having said that, maybe there's hope. Every time Bush or Cheney go anywhere, the FAA pops up a Temporary Flight Restriction to keep out flying terrists (OK, it's really to keep the TV choppers away). And of course, ever since 9/11, there's a no-fly zone around Washington, DC (not around New York though - NY just isn't important). In the past five years, it seems these zones have been violated 6,658 times. Many pilots have been grilled by the Secret Service for being off course or unaware - but nobody has been shot down yet.

#30 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 05:19 PM:

Chris @ #26 says:

I will point out that the US Coast Guard has nothing to do with patroling the Arizona desert.

Exactly! No illegals problem on the Canadian border. You should have Coast Guard Guys with 7.62mm 10-rounds-a-second machine guns patrolling the Southern border too! On Hovercraft! With DHS funding!

#31 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 05:43 PM:

To misquote Occam's Razor: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by bureaucracy. While there are plenty of things that the Bush administration is doing that scare the hell out of me, this is not one of them.

I believe the deal is that some Coast Guard jobs require you to be proficient with the .50 caliber machinegun. (And no, this isn't a new policy: USCG vessels in the Caribbean have mounted machine guns for years, both to give the Coast Guard equivalent firepower to some of the drug runners and because a heavy machine gun bullet is the only thing that is likely to catch up to and stop a souped-up cigarette boat.)

Now that the USCG is part of Homeland Security, they're doing patrols around high-risk coastal installations along the Great Lakes - things like nuclear power plants and chemical factories that you really do want guarded by trained professionals and not just a bunch of rent-a-cops.

So, you've got all these Coast Guard ratings stationed along the Great Lakes and they all need to do their yearly (or whatever) qualification with the .50 caliber machine gun . For their test to be meaningful, they have to show that they can actually hit a target using a deck-mounted gun while firing from a moving boat.

You could waste time and money to ship all these people to the Atlantic seaboard to do their training, or your could do the logical thing set up designated firing ranges within U.S. territorial waters on the Great Lakes.

To make sure that nobody gets hurt, you publicize the policy, clear it with the Canadians and various other stakeholders, and give a year or so of lead time so that the firing ranges can be worked out, new charts published, buoys put in place, etc.

And no, this isn't some sort of Orwellean new policy. During WW2, both the U.S. and Canada had bombing ranges on the Great Lakes, and the U.S. operated two aircraft carriers out of a base near Chicago. Admittedly they were training vessels converted from steam-powered side-wheel lake ferries, but they were launching state of the art naval aircraft.

#32 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 06:00 PM:

Niall McAuley said (#28): Your second point: I might believe that if the ports were secure against container nukes, anyone gave a shit about the anthrax-mailer, any cash had been spent on water-supply protection, or anything at all had been done about the long list of obvious targets in the US that aren't aeroplanes.

But, as Chris was pointing out, those aren't things the Coast Guard is responsible for. The people in the Coast Guard are either paranoid themselves, or they're worried that someone will fault them for not being properly paranoid and pro-active (even if "pro-active" just means "putting on their own special version of Security Theater"). When some excitable White House official or Senator or reporter asks the Coast Guard, "What are you doing to guard us against terrorist threats known and unknown?" the CG is not going to be very comfortable replying, "Well, since no one's dealing with securing the water supplies or found the anthrax mailer yet, we don't think we need to do anything."

After all, Al Qaeda rammed a speedboat full of explosives into an American warship (in Yemen), and an Al Qaeda terrorist tried to bring a bomb into the US from Canada (in 1999), so it's clearly only a matter of time until bad guys plan something involving boats and bombs from Canada! (Cue scary music.) At least, it wouldn't surprise me if someone's been tasked with dreaming up action-movie terrorist threats that might involve the Coast Guard, so the CG can say they're thinking ahead and doing their part.

#33 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 06:09 PM:

Thomas @ #31 writes: Now that the USCG is part of Homeland Security,

OK, let's rewrite this so that it's a) true and b) inoffensive. My first stab:

Now that the USCG has its nuts in a vice, and the Department of Heimat Sicherheit is holding the handle

they're doing patrols around high-risk coastal installations along the Great Lakes - things like nuclear power plants and chemical factories that you really do want guarded by trained professionals and not just a bunch of rent-a-cops.

No, I can't make that stupider. Someone with some skillz should now produce a Flash animation to the tune of, let's see, Men Without Hats: Safety Dance, while "I Surrender" to Thomas

#34 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 06:15 PM:

And ... do I remember correctly, that bullets can sometimes travel a surprising distance over water?

Bullets travel a surprising distance. anywhere.
As long as you don't shoot straight up, the bullet will tend to follow a parabolic path, will keep gyroscopic stability, and will maintain most of its velocity. i.e. it can still kill you a mile or so away.

If the bullet tumbles, it will lose velocity and will reach a terminal velocity in air that can be nonlethal. It may hurt like heck, but may not puncture the skin.

Most bullets only travel about 8 feet under water, according to mythbusters. At least, for the 5 and 7 milimeter rounds they would be firing. Water is apparently like the personal shields on Dune, the slow blade penetrates. The slower your muzzle velocity, the further the bullet will travel.

This completely useless trivia brought to you by ...

#35 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 06:22 PM:

I think a lot of this nonsense can be attributed to a Kafkesquian bureacracy. Some guy works in government whose job it is to assess threats. To keep his job, he has to keep producing new threats. SOme other guy works for the government has a job to prepare for threats. When teh first guy says "They'll attack at dawn through teh St Lawrence Riverway", the second guy's job does not include the authoirty to say "get stuffed" but rather must respond to said threat, regardless of how real it is.

To me, this reads like a lot of bureaucracy, Cover your ass, and probably some pork. SOmebody, somewhere is getting paid for those boats.

The thing as I see it is that if the time comes to bail out of the US because Bush has appointed himself supreme chancellor, then the best way out is not over the great lakes. THere's a whole lot of other ways to get out of dodge that are a lot better.

And besides, everything west of the mississippi is wide open to canada. and aint no one got a patrol boat along the border between Canada and
minneapolis, north dakota, montana, washington.

But that's just my opinion.

#36 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 06:24 PM:

Thomas said To misquote Occam's Razor: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by bureaucracy.

On behalf of Brother William of Occam, I am instructed to ask you to cease and desist from misquoting his really rather nifty and quotable philosophical sayings, which your illiterate and really extraordinarily innacurately mangled regurgitations are nobby nooo nobody reads this far into legal speak so I can say what I like has anyone seen this guy on Making or Electro Light/Lite before no I didn't think so and the Parties of the left part who heretofore and in the matter of the Sanity Clause...

#37 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 06:25 PM:

Cover your ass, and probably some pork.

That didn't come out quite right, Greg.

#38 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 06:29 PM:

move along.... move along...

nothing to see here...

;)

#39 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 06:31 PM:

Ass, Ox and Lambs, Greg, no pork.

Seriously, no pork. No Hyraxes either.

#40 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 06:35 PM:

Hyraxes would be good. We like hyraxes.

#41 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 06:36 PM:

I hear a distinct whooshing sound over my head...

#42 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 06:45 PM:

JDM @ 15: ("Safety zone" means "If you enter this zone, you aren't safe.")

Kinda like "Free Speech Zones".

#43 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 06:55 PM:

We cannot sit idly by when terrorists have been know to strike from Canada. No, not at the Port Angeles–Victoria ferry:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Albans_Raid

Either that, or some big, big economic crisis is planned for Canada, and the CG is getting ready to intercept thousands of Ontarians fleeing across Lake Erie on leaky rafts in search of a better life...

#44 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 06:58 PM:

On the topic of paranoia about the US government wanting to prevent citizens from leaving the US, I think there are two things to consider.

First, I'm not aware of anything resembling preparatory propaganda for this. In general, if you want to move towards a new (or stronger) policy restricting something, you try to stir up public sentiment for it, or at least a sufficient climate of fear so that your proposals seem vaguely reasonable. If you want more restrictions on the Internet, for example, you talk up pornography (and child pornography), and evil hackers, and cyberterrorism, and anything else to get people worried and concerned and more willing to go along with your ideas. If you want to restrict immigration, you play racist cards, you rant about "real Americans" being swamped by foreign values and languages, you point out immigrants who turned out to be criminals (or terrorists!), you murmur about the dangerous diseases foreigners might bring, and so forth.

But I'm not aware of any campaign, even a hint of one, suggesting that we need to prevent Americans from leaving the US.


Second, what would be the alleged reasons someone would have for wanting to prevent US citizens from leaving? I mean the internal reasons the Evil Plotters would have, rather than those offered for public consumption. For example, from what I (vaguely) understand about most former Communist states, the regimes were faced with significant numbers of people, including educated people with useful expertise, who really wanted to leave -- and who might even end up working for the Enemy. And the regimes also worried that ordinary citizens who traveled to other countries might have the scales fall from their eyes and be corrupted, and no longer be happy with the regime's lies when they came home. So it was in those regimes' interest to prevent people from leaving. (An additional reason might be wanting to avoid the crippling embarassment of having the the rest of the world see, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that many of your workers were not happy in your Glorious Workers' Paradise.)

I really can't think of any equivalent rationale in the case of the US. (Well, OK, if we postulate that the US is secretly being run by Reptoid aliens, who are fattening us up for the Great Feast of 2012, then they certainly won't want anyone leaving...)

#45 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 07:09 PM:

Jim, we have several sets of Minutemen in the DC area. They watch and videotape the day laborer centers because they think everybody there is illegal.

#46 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 07:12 PM:

Sounds like a number of bits have been explained -- the boats in question are small and short-range enough that they need nearby firing ranges, if they're going to be armed at all (if you arm them, you *must* train them and make them practice!).

I'm hoping the Coast Guard is capable of defining a workable, safe, firing range for boats. Not my area of expertise, but rifle bullets, which is what we're dealing with here, need a solid backstop or a rather large distance.

There's nothing special about longer ranges over water; there is however a danger of ricochets *off* the water, firing down into the water in front of something you don't want to destroy isn't safe.

I'd be curious about what sorts of actions are really contemplated. There's various kinds of smuggling / drug-running over some of those bodies of water I'm sure. There's a perceived greater need to control and protect harbors and the cargo traveling through them.

These boats are terribly irrelevant to stopping Americans from leaving. There's far too much land border to be effectively blocked. And what's been said about range and capabilities means they're not much good for patrolling the open parts of the lakes; sounds like they're useful in the harbors, mostly.

As a general thing, I'm in favor of arming people (and then whacking them soundly or, um, shooting them if they misuse their weapons). Lots of the jobs the Coast Guard has to take on, I'd really like to have some significant firepower backing me up.

So basically: yeah, Teresa, I think you're paranoid on this one. It seems strange, since I know you're not a knee-jerk "guns bad" type actually, but this post sounds like somebody starting from an emotional reaction to the idea of guns, and rationalizing from there.

#47 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 07:16 PM:

Peter, if you were drafted into this stupid war, where's the nearest international border you

ah, hell you know this already, why are you asking me?

#48 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 07:52 PM:

Most of Peter's reasons for not being paranoid don't seem to hold up that well. We have an illegitimate regime that is unbelievably corrupt and dishonest. Their policies are not good for the nation or the vast majority of its citizens, from getting us in wars we cannot win, to denying medical care to those in need. They have been holding on to power only by deceptive propaganda that completely misrepresents their policies, by inciting fear of terror, by encouraging racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and sexism and exploiting the divisions they cause in our communities, by making promises they cannot keep, and by outright bribery funded by borrowing against our future. Meanwhile our neighbor to the north, while far from perfect, is a relative haven of sanity. Our current regime must be aware that the number of intelligent, educated, and entrepreneurial foreigners coming to the US is dropping fast. There have already been some high profile defections of US scientists to other countries where most people understand what evolution is and are willing to fund beneficial research. Maybe there isn't cause for us to be paranoid, but the Bush administration has plenty of reasons to be paranoid, and they're not asking us: they are the deciders.

But then I imagine Americans visiting Canada and seeing the clean streets and the healthy people of all colors working together and I wonder if the scales would fall from their eyes and I think "nah."

#49 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 08:03 PM:

TexAnne #6: If they're ignoring British troops killed by American 'friendly fire' in Iraq, what makes you think they care about Canadians?

#50 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 08:20 PM:

John Stanning #29:

Is there really a no-fly zone around DC? I have a friend who lives in Arlington, in sight of the Pentagon and Ronald Reagan Airport (actually, in sight of darn near everything except the White House), immediately across the river from Georgetown. If you sit on the roof of her building it is a neverending parade of airplanes coming into Ronald Reagan and newschoppers covering highway traffic.

It is true that I didn't pay attention to whether they were flying over the city itself, or just over the river.

Wikipedia has more. Apparently within 15 miles of Reagan International is a restricted-fly zone.

Incidentally, I find it very creepy to stand on my friend's roof or look out her window and imagine standing there on 9/11/01. The planes are all coming in low to land anyway; you'd have had no idea something bad was about to happen. (She didn't live there then.)

#51 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 08:36 PM:

But then I imagine Americans visiting Canada and seeing the clean streets and the healthy people of all colors working together and I wonder if the scales would fall from their eyes and I think "nah."

i'm not sure if this is what you meant, but i am one of those mythic beasts who said she was going to move to canada if the us invaded iraq, & then did (there were other circumstances, like a good art school & a canadian boyfriend). i am happy to think i will never live in the us again. that's a large part due to what bush has done & is doing, but mostly because it doesn't seem like the us will have universal socialized health care in the foreseeable future. & that is just dumb.

i have been well-off financially all my life, but i wouldn't want to raise my children in a country like that.

#52 ::: Writerious ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 10:27 PM:

Second, what would be the alleged reasons someone would have for wanting to prevent US citizens from leaving?

To stop those commie/terrist/traitor retirees from crossing the border to buy the same prescription drugs in Canada that cost them several times as much in the U.S.? Even though they're manufactured by the very same companies?

I dunno, just a thought.

#53 ::: LizT ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 10:27 PM:

I live *just* south of Detroit, and everyone I know thinks this is an awful idea and people will die. Probably boaters, at the very least. Someone will wander in zone. The lakes get remarkably crowded - especially around Sarnia. Good Lord!

Two weeks ago, my former Navy husband told me I was being paranoid in my thinking the gunships are really for controlling our own citizens (see what kind of damage they could do to a riot in Hart Plaza or on Belle Isle).

Much like the earlier ex-Navy commenter, my husband is just certain these guys are getting trained to go fight in the Persian Gulf, our Gulf and Cali coast against drug-runners. I said, "why train them here, then?" and he said, "because you don't train in the zone you're going to fight in. That'd be like sending troops to Iraq to get trained."

I'd like to feel reassured, but I'm afraid I share the paranoia, even if my pov on it was skewed to controlling Detroiters in particular.

#54 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 11:02 PM:

Fragano (#49): If they're ignoring British troops killed by American 'friendly fire' in Iraq, what makes you think they care about Canadians?

Hmmm...I think that the Canadians killed by American 'friendly fire' in Afghanistan aren't especially well-recognized either, but I don't know enough about military justice to know if the sentences are harsh or light.

Miriam (#51): Are you at OCAD or NSCAD or someplace else?

#55 ::: Handslive ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 11:47 PM:

I'm surprised no one's mentioned cigarettes (transported from the US to Canada) or pharmaceuticals (transported from Canada to the US). In a militant environment, anyone may carve out a niche for their own private, completely righteous domain.

#56 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 01:21 AM:

miriam, all my best to you, but I bet you probably weren't one who had scales from her eyes to fall.

#57 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 02:24 AM:

debcha:

emily carr! alma mater of douglas coupland & brian jungen.

or, as a chinese-exchange-student friend of mine would have it, enemy car.

tom b,

you are probably right. i moved to israel in 1998, came back to the us in 2002, & moved to vancouver in 2003. being away all that time beforehand made it a lot easier to leave.

#58 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 02:49 AM:

Poor buggers...

"We're giving you machinegun training so that you can stop terrorists and drug smugglers" sounds so much better for morale than "We're giving you machinegun training so you can be shipped to Iraq"

#59 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 02:51 AM:

I don't think there's any general nefarious plan behind this sort of thing, but what I'm worried about is that a lot of these alleged security measures are put in place for the reasons the posters above theorised about, that can very simply be converted to serve the purpose Teresa is worried about.

What we've seen over the past five years is not the quick installation of a dictatorship ala the collapse of the Weimar Republic in 1933, but the speeding up of a decades old trend towards a more authoritarian state. There's no real plan behind it, it seems to me.

If you want to be really worried about a country deliberately going for a well-intended, It's For Your Own Good dictatorship, take a look at Blair's Britain: ever increasing draconian laws, badly drafted culminating towards a "new contract between the state and its citizens, in which the citizens have duties as well as rights"...

#60 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 04:11 AM:

I have this image of Santa outfitting his sleigh with ECM pods, just in case NORAD try to track him crossing the border this year.

"No, Rudolph, not this year. You're too easy a target for an AIM-9."

#61 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 05:21 AM:

TomB said (#48):
But then I imagine Americans visiting Canada and seeing the clean streets and the healthy people of all colors working together and I wonder if the scales would fall from their eyes and I think "nah."

Well, Americans have been doing this for decades and the scales still haven't fallen, so to speak, so I don't imagine it's something anyone is seriously worried about.

(Actually, now that I think about it, the US is not a country where the government produces most of the propaganda telling us how wonderful the country is; it's a country where the propaganda is generated by the culture itself. And then incidentally exported to the rest of the world as well.)


miriam (#51) -- really, I think the reaction of most US conservatives to your action wouldn't be "Oh, no, another liberal American leaving the country! What ever shall we do?" but rather something along the lines of "Good riddance! We didn't want your liberal pinko kind here anyway!" (Today's quiz: complete the following traditional reactionary slogan: "America: love it or ...")

#62 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 05:41 AM:

Previous episodes of US gunnery practice on the Great Lakes, according to this Coast Guard document:

After World War II, the U.S. Navy stationed Naval Reserve vessels on the Great Lakes, which became known as the "Corn Belt Fleet." Between 1950 and 1970, the Navy deployed the Great Lakes Reserve Destroyer Division Fleet of destroyer escorts and patrol craft.

During World War II, the Navy established a gunnery range in the middle of Lake Michigan. At the time, this area was well-known to mariners who plied the Great Lakes. During the mid-1950s and the 1960s, the Navy's "Corn Belt Fleet" gave its crews gunnery practice using the same range maintained by the Navy during World War II. ... In 1972, CRD [Coastal River Division] 21 reopened the gunnery range for practice and an appropriate Notice to Mariners (NOM) was published specifically warning mariners about use of the range by the naval vessels of CRD 21. CRD 21 discontinued use of the gunnery range in 1976, when the unit was disbanded.

I admit that I'm curious about the "Corn Belt Fleet"[*]: wouldn't destroyer escorts have violated the old 19th Century treaty?

[*] Someone's got to patrol those amber waves of grain.

#63 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 05:44 AM:

Just to clear up a minor point: the best German translation of "Homeland Security Department" is Reichssicherheitshauptamt, or RSHA. Any resemblance etc.

debcha #54: don't feel bad about it; even the Americans killed by American fire tend not to get too much attention, Pat Tillman aside.

#64 ::: Donald Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 05:58 AM:

Dave Bell # 60 said

I have this image of Santa outfitting his sleigh with ECM pods, just in case NORAD try to track him crossing the border this year.

"No, Rudolph, not this year. You're too easy a target for an AIM-9."

Actually, on a more humorous note, NORAD has been doing just that since its inception. See

http://www.noradsanta.org/index.php

#65 ::: Douglas Anders ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 06:15 AM:

I live in Toledo, OH, and I work downtown, so I see these gunboats often. They are more farsical than anything else. Commenter Chris Gerrib (#18) is correct -- they are small. Lake Erie, small in any other context, is big and the coastline of Ohio & Michigan is long. You could easily sail from Canada to without seeing one. In the boating season there are too many boats on the lake to vet with radar.

There are two nuclear reactors near the coast within 20 miles of Toledo, and last Summer I was on boats the sailed fairly close to them and there was no sign that anyone noticed.

"Toys for Boys" seems to be an accurate observation.

#66 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 06:53 AM:

Danke schön, Gruppenführer ajay.

#67 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 07:25 AM:

ajay wrote: "...the best German translation of "Homeland Security Department" is Reichssicherheitshauptamt..."

I think it is Mark Twain who once said that German words are so long that they have a perspective.

#68 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 07:53 AM:

Peter @ 62 - the destroyers were stationed on the Great Lakes for the ease of their reserve crews to get to them. In war, they would go to sea via the St. Lawrence Seaway and form convoy escorts. I think the "dodge" for treaty purposes was that they were reserve, not active. There have been armed Naval militia ships on the Lake since before WW I. (Trivia - the passenger ship Eastland, which sank with almost a thousand lives lost, was refloated and converted to a Naval militia ship during WW I).

I should point out that I know of two old land-based gunnery ranges (with naval cannons) firing onto Lake Michigan. One at Great Lakes Naval Training Station, and one armory at Sheboygan, WI.

#69 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 08:08 AM:

Martin Wisse (59):

"I don't think there's any general nefarious plan behind this sort of thing, but what I'm worried about is that a lot of these alleged security measures are put in place for the reasons the posters above theorised about, that can very simply be converted to serve the purpose Teresa is worried about."
Yes, that's it exactly. Once in place, a system of no-fly lists that's supposed to stop a small number of potential terrorists can be expanded into more general lists of who does and doesn't have clearance to fly where. If you have to have a passport to cross the border, not only are your crossings automatically kept track of, and casual crossings suppressed, but the power to issue or not issue a passport becomes much more significant. You can't close the entire US/Canadian border, but you can close all the easy crossings in populous areas. That leaves crossing in lightly populated areas, where strangers stand out more, and crossing in back country, which requires the ability to hike some distance, and means you can't carry luggage.

If you're even a little unsure of your ability to get out of the country on short notice, potential repressive actions here instantly become much more daunting.

#70 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 08:24 AM:

Re #6:

Not only are they firing without telling people on the other side, they were firing without telling people on this side.

It recently came out, in the local news, that the Coast Guard was doing live-fire exercises on the lakes, without telling anyone. The mayors of the cities along the lake were talking about a big meeting, and seriously pissed off. Not only is their private recreational boating along the lakes, there is also commercial shipping, and there is a certain amount of effort going in to encouraging shipping to boost the economy.

#71 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 08:36 AM:

In #62, regarding a WWII naval gunnery range in the middle of Lake Michigan, Peter Erwin writes:

I admit that I'm curious about the "Corn Belt Fleet": wouldn't destroyer escorts have violated the old 19th Century treaty?

Were there objections from Canadian towns along the shores of Lake Michigan?

(Seriously, what treaty, and what are the U.S. obligations regarding warships?)

#72 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 08:46 AM:

Debcha #54: You're right.

#73 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 08:55 AM:

Ah. It's the Rush-Bagot Treaty of 1817:

The Rush-Bagot Treaty was a treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom enacted in 1817. The treaty provided for the demilitarization of the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain, where many British naval armaments and forts still remained. The treaty laid the basis for a demilitarized boundary between the U.S. and British North America. This agreement was indicative of improving relations between the United States and Great Britain in the period following the War of 1812. It was negotiated by Acting United States Secretary of State Richard Rush and the British Minister to Washington Sir Charles Bagot. It eventually led to the Treaty of Washington of 1871, which completed disarmament.

The United States and Canada agreed in 1946, through an exchange of diplomatic notes, that the stationing of naval vessels for training purposes was permissible provided each government was fully notified in advance.

In 2004, the United States Coast Guard decided to arm 11 of its cutters stationed on Lake Erie and Lake Huron with M240 7.62 mm machine guns. The American decision was based on a climbing number of smuggling operations as well as the increased threat of terrorist activity after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The Canadian government decided that the armament did not violate the treaty, as the guns were to be used for law enforcement rather than military activities. Canada reserved the right to arm their vessels with similar weapons.

So the Treaty of Washington might be significant, too.

#74 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 09:58 AM:

(Please put on your "I'm not humor impaired" t-shirt before reading this.)

I have to disagree with ajay's proposed German translation (#63), for three reasons:
* Hauptamt is a "department" that is clearly subordinate to something else; for a free-standing agency, and particularly a cabinet-level government agency, is probably more accurate, and certainly connotes "faceless bureaucracy" better than does Hauptamt
* Reichsheim means closer to "home federation" than to "homeland" (historical example: Geheimstaatspolizei, better known to us as Gestapo)
* It's more fun to make one's mangled Germanic nouns similar to those from the past, and especially to previous American mistranslations of the past. Thus, my preference is Geheimstaatssicheritätsbüro, leading to the even-more-amusing (at least, to those of us who've struggled through many documents from the Abwehr) Geheimstaatssicheritätsbürostrebener (almost-desperately-aspiring members of... )

All of which just shows that translation is more an art than a science. And that humorous ones are even more so.

#75 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 10:07 AM:

What is the origin of the word Gestapo? It seems unnaturally short for a German word.

#76 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 10:15 AM:

Serge #75: Geheimstatspolitzei = secret state police. It's therefore a sort of syllabalic acronym.

#77 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 10:20 AM:

Gestapo is a contraction of Geheime Staatspolizei ("secret state police"). And, of course, Nazi is itself an abbreviation (Nazionalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeitspartei = "National Socialist German Workers Party").

Similarly, East Germans referred to their secret police, the Ministerium für Staatssicherheit ("Ministry for State Security") as the Stasi.

Even the Germans sometimes find their words inconveniently long.

#78 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 10:28 AM:

An interesting bit of synchronicity. Today's Washington Post has an article about the Coast Guard's faltering transformation into a "front-line homeland security force."

The article is not about what they're doing on the Great Lakes (unless you count mentions of "offshore patrols" and "port protection"). It's about all the things that have gone wrong while they attempted to upgrade their fleet. But it does show what some of their priorities are.

#79 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 10:31 AM:

Thanks, Dave & Peter... I thought that 'sta' and 'po' might be abbreviations for 'state' and 'police', but I couldn't figure out where 'ge' came from.

#80 ::: Christopher Turkel ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 10:39 AM:

I read this entry I blinked, imagining I was in some nightmare, then I read again and realized we are just that much closer to the world of the Handmaiden's Tale.

#81 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 10:41 AM:

I'm trying to figure out exactly why and/or which Bush-related faction would want to keep people trapped here.

If kleptocracy really got out of control or if the US economy tanks, it could happen. I don't think the theocrats have enough people and clout to take over to that extent.

At this point the "guns are kewl" aspect might well be dominant, but I agree that the extra guns add to the risk of people getting hurt. (See The Agitator for plenty about the ill effects of increasing the number of SWAT teams.)

I think the ranges for the weapons were for aimed fire--what's the range for causing unaimed serious injury?

One aspect of people leaving might be a brain/creativity drain--though I don't know what it would take for the government to start worrying about it.

#82 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 10:49 AM:

My favorite take on this so far is from Dave, at The Galloping Beaver, where he's discussing the provisions of the Rush-Bagot treaty, which does allow for single 18 pounder (muzzle loading, smoothbore) cannon on up to four "lightly armed" vessels.


“We don't have any cannons or rocket launchers or anything like that,” CPO Lanier said.

But, Chief, you're allowed to have a cannon. It's just a sonofabitch to load.
#83 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 10:50 AM:

The ranges I gave are maximum ranges. How far they'll throw a piece of lead. The maximum effective ranges (how far you can aim and have a chance of hitting your target) are much, much shorter.

For the M60 the maximun effective range is 1,100 meters (0.7 miles). For the M2HB with a tripod mount the maximum effective range is 2,000 meters (1.2 miles).

#84 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 10:57 AM:

Of course, if terrorists hijack a Canadian submarine, Big Guns won't do us much good as bullets shatter very quickly upon hitting water.

#85 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 11:55 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz said (#81):
I'm trying to figure out exactly why and/or which Bush-related faction would want to keep people trapped here.

Exactly. That's one of the points I was trying to make earlier. If anything, most Bush-related factions would probably prefer it if liberals left -- less people who would vote for the opposition.

One aspect of people leaving might be a brain/creativity drain--though I don't know what it would take for the government to start worrying about it.

Except perhaps for a couple of very specific fields (e.g., stem-cell research or experimental particle physics), there's no real prospect of a scientific brain drain. Instead, what people are worrying about is a lessening of the brain inflow[*], as foreigners become less likely to study or do research here, primarily because visas became more difficult to get. There have actually been recent efforts to make the visa process easier again, and evidently foreign grad student enrollment in the US has increased slightly this year, after declining post-9/11.

[*] We're not draining other countries' brains as efficiently as we used to...[**]

[**] I'm now picturing the US shambling across the world stage, chanting "Braaaaiiiiiins!" like a proper zombie.

#86 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 12:30 PM:

TomB #48: I have visited Canada and now like to say that there's only one civilized country in the Western Hemisphere. Hint: not the US.

#87 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 12:40 PM:

For some reason, I am now imagining a French-Canadian secret agen, guiding the American Resistance, who is disguised as a Police officer, yet speaks very bad English.

Is the Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobioes in the Gugenheimm?

#88 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 12:54 PM:

#86 there's only one civilized country in the Western Hemisphere

There are schedules to be maintained, even in Columbia.


#89 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 02:33 PM:

Some techincal points.

600 rnds per minute is the standard rate of fire for light machine guns. The are probably M-240 variants (more well known as the M-60 of the Vietnam era).

Max range range is in the area of 1.5 to two miles.

Max effective range is between 800-1500 meters. The former is where the tracers burn out, removing immediate visual correction. The latter is about how far the weapon can be kept on a target of reasonable (say a Humvee) size.

Bad news, Water is dense. Bullets are shaped like, well bullets, and the rounded tips, combined with rotational effects and high speed means they skip off of water (if they actually penetrate the water, they stop. Six inches is about what it takes for a slug to come to a complete halt. The scenes in "Saving Private Ryan" where bullets from the MG-42 (1,400 rnds per minute; the basic weapon on which all modern LMGs are patterned) are ripping through people, with longs trails of bubbles as they slice through the water... not).

Ricochets are unnpredictable. The safety zone behind those shooting areas needs to be such that the maximum travel range of the rounds is completely contained inside the area.

How they keep people out of it, I don't know. When I was at the firing range in Ft. George (Inverness) the range fired over the Firth of Moray. If a vessel entered the splash zone, all firing stopped. The precluded zone was twice the possible area of actual impact.

Part of the problem with this is actually the small size of the boats. They can't easily get to a place where they have that kind of free-range. Esp. because they are small enough that being able to make sure no random craft is in the fall-zone.

#90 ::: StarMalachite ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 02:40 PM:

Here's paranoia for you: I ran into my Congressman, the egregious Tom Davis (R-VA), at the supermarket during campaign season. I refused to shake his hand and told him exactly -- well, minus the profanity -- what I thought of his vote for the Military Commissions Bill (AKA We Don't Need No Steenkin' Habeus Corpus). I then posted about the encounter on Daily Kos.

Eight days later I found out at the airport on my way to Ohio Valley FIlk Fest that all of a sudden I'm on the terrorist watch list. Absolutely nothing else about me had changed since the last time I flew.

At no time did I yell at Davis, or curse, or even raise my voice. Nor did I say he was shameful, un-American, etc., just that the bill was.

The trip to Filk Ontario next March should be verrry eenteresting... feel free to finish the quote.

#91 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 03:50 PM:

#89 The are probably M-240 variants (more well known as the M-60 of the Vietnam era).

You know better than that - the M240 is directly traceable to the FN - MAG and remotely is a BAR turned upside down. Different designs different parts than the M60 same cartridge in NATO use. Both the M60 and M240 are of course used like the MG42 but less in a dual mount anti-aircraft-artillery role and with a lower rate of fire.

Given the hull cracks in the big cutters and such making backup less available - my own WAG is that M60's are available as they are replaced by M240's in other services (and machine guns are replaced by 25mm for many uses) and arming small craft is being pursued because small craft are all they have available.

#92 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 05:45 PM:

Rats. The Globe and Mail website does not have Bruce McCall's Sept 24/05 article online, so I can't point anyone to it.
I do have the clipping. The headline:

Illegal Canadian hordes continue not streaming over border.

The article describes the U.S.-Canadian border as "a flashpoint of somnolence."
"Indeed, the refusal of the northerners next door to wade rivers, sneak under fences and otherwise evade U.S. border guards in their desperate scrambles to reach U.S. soil seems almost a point of pride."
""I don't know how long we can keep waiting for an influx that never influxes," carps one American border guardian who has never used his costly set of handcuffs."

So, umm, Uncle Jim at #27, you said you had a story?

#93 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 08:07 PM:

StarMalachite, I gave Oliver North the cut direct when he campaigned and I didn't get on a terrorist list. Of course, the list was probably much smaller back then.

#94 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 08:14 PM:

peter,

If anything, most Bush-related factions would probably prefer it if liberals left -- less people who would vote for the opposition.

hey, i voted in 2004. of course, then officials from my homeland of ohio went on record pledging not to count my vote (absentee), & we all know how that turned out.

#95 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 11:15 PM:

James@83: is that the effective range from a small boat (even on a lake), or on land? My suspicion is that even "qualified" gunners would have almost no chance of hitting a small fast explosive-loaded boat, even if they assumed that they could spray endlessly without damaging the tanker they were trying to protect. I'm also wondering how many of the USCG's 20-footers it would take to "protect" any significant fraction of the lake; they might cover a few bridges, but I can't imagine them covering the amount of traffic the lake get -- especially if they're coasters that can't follow big ships down the middle of the lake.

And wrt the thought that training locally is better than TDY to an established range: just how expensive is TDY for the ranks that will be qualifying? I don't expect it would be gold-plated, and (per a comment above) I would expect that keeping a large-enough area clear would not be cheap -- unless they're figuring it's Too Bad, Galahad for anyone who didn't get the message and/or doesn't have GPS to make sure they're clear of the range. Security theater, boys' toys, or sheer stupidity; any of these seem more plausible than Teresa's worries.

#96 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2006, 12:30 PM:

StarMalachite, way up there (#31) Thomas said memorably Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by bureaucracy.

Does Tom Davis know who you are? I can't quite imagine a real Congressman - even Davis - growling to his consigliere "Find out who that SOB is and harass his ass." And even if Davis does know you, I can't quite imagine the ensuing conversation between the consigliere and the DHS spook who put your name on the watch list.

On the other hand, I can imagine that someone with a similar name to yours (albeit different middle name) lives in the same apartment building as one Mehmet Youssef, whose name in Arabic is the same as an unrelated stranger called Mohammed Yusuf whose cousin once visited Pakistan and is (incorrectly, as it happens) suspected of attending a "terrorist training camp". Yes, in the current atmosphere of paranoia I can easily imagine that the cousin, Mohammed, Mehmet and your namesake - and therefore you - could all find yourselves on the watch list. Getting off again, unless you're Ted Kennedy, is another matter.

#97 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2006, 01:18 PM:

The worry is that, once the cogs and levers for tyranny are in place, someone, someday, may pull one of the levers.

About machineguns, what you have to remember is that they're area weapons, not point weapons. Back in my day whipping around in 26' Boston Whalers and Ramos Raiders and PBRs, hitting something moving on the water, from a small moving platform, isn't a real problem out to the max effective range. (You see the splashes in the water and adjust until the splashes and the target converge.) That's why you use an MG rather than, say, a rifle.

#98 ::: StarMalachite ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2006, 05:42 PM:

John Stanning @ #96, normally I'd be in full agreement with Thomas @ #31. But not this time, for a number of reasons.

You say: "Does Tom Davis know who you are?" After our discussion, I loaded my groceries into my car. It was in the front row of parking, clearly visible from where Davis & his 2 or 3 staffers were standing. My license plate is a very simple 4 letter word. (No, not one of those words.)

Plus, I posted on Daily Kos. A lot of other people have reported similar problems from various authorities after criticizing them there. No, "they" don't monitor the whole blogosphere -- but is it so hard to believe "they" check the highest profile "enemy" sites?

You also say: "I can't quite imagine a real Congressman - even Davis - growling to his consigliere "Find out who that SOB is and harass his ass." Then you don't know Davis. He's done far worse over the years, like getting a grocery store whose management dipleased his wife closed. It was to be shut down anyway in 10 weeks. He got it closed by the end of the month, never mind everyone put out of their jobs ahead of schedule. He is also, among other things, the clown who tried to subpeona Terry Sciavo.

Then you say: "And even if Davis does know you, I can't quite imagine the ensuing conversation between the consigliere and the DHS spook who put your name on the watch list." That's easy: "This person harrassed my boss/acted threatening." (Truth has never been one of this guy's priorities.) "Here's her license number." Piece of cake.

Finally, you suggest that the problem might be that I share a name with someone. That's the first thing I thought of. It's certainly possible, but my name is just not very common. Only 2 other poeple with it have any sort of online presence, but very minor and banal. This of course is not definitive, but given the other factors I mentioned, plus the incredible timing, my Spidey sense just doesn't buy coincidence.

I cross-checked all this with a boatload of sober, thoughtful contacts of mine, people with pretty good internal compasses and BS detectors -- no Fox Mulders need apply -- some inside the Federal enclave, and what amazed me was that they all agreed immediately that 1. "Yeah, that's what happened," and 2. "Sounds like Tom Davis, all right." That's when I started to believe me.

It's not as bad as we think it is. It's worse, and I wouldn't have believed that 3 months ago.

#99 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2006, 07:44 PM:

Wow. It's worse than I thought it was too. And this is the "democracy" that they want to export to the benighted Middle East?

#100 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2006, 08:45 PM:

I don't think there's any general nefarious plan behind this sort of thing, but what I'm worried about is that a lot of these alleged security measures are put in place for the reasons the posters above theorised about, that can very simply be converted to serve the purpose Teresa is worried about.

Yes, exactly. What we're seeing here, I believe, is not an immediate coup and power-grab, but the long-term setup for one. They install the pieces one by one, a little here and a little there (never enough in a short enough period to seriously alarm anyone but "alarmists" and "conspiracy nuts") and then once all the pieces are in place...

What terrifies me is the thought that when it happens, it's going to come down like a hammer on an anvil, and there won't be ANY chance to block it or even to protest. And yes, that choice of metaphor was absolutely deliberate.

#101 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2006, 11:20 AM:

Headline this morning at http://www.latimes.com/ (down the page, in 'National':

Coast Guard abandons plans for target practice on Great Lakes

#102 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2006, 03:36 PM:

Now if they'll just abandon those plans for mounting the machineguns to start with....

Y'all know the saying "If it ain't broke don't fix it"? Well, the border with Canada has been working fine for darned-near 200 years. Why do we need to fix it now?

#103 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2006, 03:44 PM:

Jim, I think the idea may be to break it, so they can 'fix' it their way (which will make everyone else mad at them ... again.)

#104 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2006, 04:48 PM:

James D. Macdonald #102: Somebody has put a bug up W's behind about Queenston Heights and Lundy's Lane and he wants revenge....

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