Their reaction time's pretty good, I have to admit.

24 March 2008

The borders of the United States are monitored carefully by US ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Their stated primary task is to protect the country from crime and terrorism (in no particular order) by policing the borders, preventing anything shady from getting in, and generally trying to make everyone feel safe that they keep Them safely away from US citizens. Last week deputy chief of the local border patrol Joe Giuliano spoke to a group of 200 or so residents of San Juan Island, which is technically part of the state of Washington. It turns out that periodic citizenship checks are performed on passengers riding the ferryboats to and from the island, just in case anyone is trying to sneak into the country that way, and it has the locals a little concerned. Giuliano also told a story about ongoing realtime monitoring of radiation sources happening on US highways, in particular along Interstate-5. The story he told had to do with a car tripping a radiation detector positioned near the Bow-Edison exit of I-5; the agent watching the radiation detector gave chase, pulled the car over inside of a minute, and searched the vehicle.

What the agent discovered was not a dirty bomb or a nuclear device headed for the off-ramp but a housecat undergoing radiation treatment for cancer; the residual radiation tripped the detector. This isn't as out there as it sounds - it's happened rarely to human patients as well, but think about this: They were traveling at 70 miles per hour on a busy highway. That's one sensitive detector.

Then again, this might not surprise some of you. This is the same country that recently turned a British author away on grounds of 'moral turpitude'. Sebastian Horsley was flying into the United States to attend the release party of his book Dandy In the Underworld on this side of the pond. Horsley is notorious in England for living the life of a modern-day dandy - in particular, sex, drugs, and tailored clothing are his thing (in comparison to life in the US, one might suppose that it was the tailored clothing that was offensive). It is known that having any drug offenses on your record are grounds for denial of entry to this country; Horsley has a quarter-century old arrest for possession of amphetamine sulfate in England (for which he was given a conditional release) and has been clean for three years.

I find it ironic that one can learn how to chop cocaine, cook a hit of smack, watch someone shot execution-style, and see a man's bare ass on prime time television in this country, but living it up (not necessarily in a healthy manner, let me add - while the possible consequences of Horsley's lifestyle are on his head and his alone I cannot in good conscience condone many of his actions) can get one turned away from a business trip. So far as I know, even Hunter S. Thompson didn't run into anything like this, and the excesses of his lifestyle are legendary. I guess it's because Thompson was into guns as well as drugs and raising hell - that's more socially acceptable, one supposes.