On Friday, writing about the four-hour detention by US Customs & Border Protection of a troop of Iowa boy scouts, I put it this way:
American life is bifurcating into the undocumented and the overdocumented. On the southern border, the bazillions of US laws are meaningless - proof of identity, medical tests, none of it matters. And the less it matters on the Rio Grande the more the zealots on the 49th Parallel will take apart your car if they think you've got a Kinder egg in there. Anyone who thinks that attitude can be confined to the border and not work its way deep into the rest of American life is deluded.
Thirteen years ago, I opposed the creation of the "Department of Homeland Security" - on the classic Thatcherite ground that if you create a bureaucracy to deal with a problem you'll never be rid of it. I had expected the usual "mission creep" but that term barely covers what's happened in the last decade. There is no "homeland security": At the southern border, the homeland is wide open, and ICE and the Border Patrol, which (like CBP) are both part of DHS, are actively colluding in homeland insecurity.
Meanwhile, Homeland Security "agents" busy themselves raiding the Foxy Lady strip club in Brockton, Massachusetts, because the foxy ladies were giving away knock-off Red Sox or Patriots merchandise with every two lap dances, and dispatching six vehicles to a home in Statesville, North Carolina to seize an imported Land Rover that doesn't meet EPA emissions standards.
In September 2001, the then Attorney-General, John Ashcroft, rationalized the new Homeland Security apparatus as follows: "There is absolutely no guarantee that these safeguards would have avoided the September 11th occurrence," he said. "We do know that, without them, the occurrence took place." And so, without Homeland Security "agents" whiling away their work days checking out exotic dancers or climbing into the full Robocop to terrorize a couple of suburban car collectors, another occurrence could easily occur, couldn't it?
On the other hand, whatever's occurring at that wide-open southern border doesn't pose any risk of additional occurrences occurring, does it? So don't worry about it.
There is a pattern here. As I wrote here three months ago:
In the Second World War, when the Japanese took Singapore and inflicted what Churchill called the most ignominious defeat in British military history, it was famously said of the colony's ill-prepared defenses that the guns were pointing the wrong way. In America today, the guns seem to be pointing the wrong way.
Around the world, American power is a joke - in Moscow; in Beijing; in Teheran, where US taxpayers pay billions of dollars a month for Iran to participate in the charade of "negotiations" while getting on with their nuclear program; in Fallujah and Ramadi, where head-hacking jihadists now ride around in US vehicles brandishing US weapons; in Tripoli, where "leading from behind" has effortlessly advanced into evacuating from behind... Across the planet, American power is a joke. Instead, like Singapore, the firepower's pointing the wrong way - on the domestic front, at US citizens. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have a famous motto: The Mounties always get their man. The Department of Homeland Security doesn't get anyone at the southern border. But they'll get you instead. Frankly, it's a lot easier. So, in Boston, they didn't get Tamerlan Tsarnaev, even after the Russians fingered him to the feds, but they did get Misty and Candy at the Foxy Lady strip club.
I'm sick of "agents" and "raids". These guys are not agents; they're low-level bureaucrats. America is unique in the developed world in turning minor officials from the Department of Paperwork into "agents" and letting them run around pretending to be James Bond. And, by the way, the point about 007 is that it's a very low number, because there are supposed to be very few of them. If you're wondering why America is the Brokest Nation in History, with a national government that has to pay back $18 trillion (which is more than anyone ever has had to pay back) just to get back to having nothing, well, consider this: They sent six SUVs of trained agents to check the vehicle identification number on the imported 1985 Land Rover of a respectable, law-abiding couple no threat to anybody. That total waste of resources is repeated a bazillion times a day across the land - and, like Iran's room-service bill in Vienna, you're paying for it.
As I said on Friday, this country is dividing into Undocumented America and Over-Documented America, co-existing like overlaid area codes on the same territory. In a two-party system, there ought to be room for one party that objects to that.