Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Naming Conventions

Given the great issues of our times, it’s good to see the legislative and executive branches of the US government sharing the workload. The US Congress has responded by deciding to focus on the difficult challenge of naming post offices. According to the Congressional Research Service, post office naming is now the most common form of legislation. Apparently, debating whether a local post office named after Walt Disney or Frank Sinatra has a nicer ring to it affects the very future of the Republic

Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security has agreed to address the problem of border security head-on. The DHS has just announced the winner in a multi-billion dollar competition to get control of America’s land frontiers.

Northrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Boeing all submitted proposals to fence, fortify and over-fly the Mexican border to detect and capture illegal immigrants. Lockheed Martin proposed the use of observation blimps although there was some concern that they would be mistaken for piñatas and attract several million Mexicans thinking they contained hard candies and party favours.

Raytheon’s solution included installing tens of thousands of sensors on the border hooked up to the Google Earth mapping system. It seems that border patrol agents would have been able to enter search terms such as ‘Speedy Gonzales’ or ‘Frito Bandito’ and get an immediate fix on an illegal entrant. Predictably, Northrup Grumman offered an airplane-based solution to the problem. Boeing’s winning bid proposes the construction of 1,800 border towers since it believes airplanes cost too much.

The dark horse in this competition was Swedish mobile phone maker Ericson. Doug Smith, the company’s Vice President for Governmental Solutions, says that border security comes down to a “big broad-band wireless solution”. Providing border agents with 1,000 free minutes a month to call for reinforcements was a powerful argument. Smith pointed out that “we don’t need a Star Wars-type solution here.”

If Smith is right, there is still time to reopen the bidding and give the Iraqi government a shot at the business. If a Star Wars-type solution is not what you want, the latest plan to secure the borders of their capital is a perfect fit. The Boys from Baghdad are planning to dig a 50 mile trench around the city to control who comes in and out. Here is a chance for the new government of Iraq to show their gratitude to the US for bringing the benefits of democracy to their country. If a 50 mile trench can keep Al Qaeda out of Baghdad, a 1,951 mile trench along the US-Mexican border is an obvious answer to keeping assorted gardeners, hotel maids and Mariachi bands out of Arizona and New Mexico.

Of course, a ditch separating the United States and Mexico might be considered a bit too low-tech by the DHS. The Iraqis might want to consider a joint proposal with Perrier, Evian or Pellegrino. $2 billion should be enough to dig the new ditch and fill it with water, providing a critical line of defence for America.

The new watery ditch could also provide an opportunity for the US Congress to focus their attention on border security and do what they do best. They could name the new ditch. Rio Grande has a nice ring to it.

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