Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Professional Courtesy

By clicking on the title of this post, viewers will discover an unpleasant recent event. Read the opening paragraph for the gist of the story.
Congress is patting itself on the back for passing the Port Security Act last Saturday. But the day before, a House-Senate conference committee stripped out a provision that would have barred serious felons from working in sensitive dock security jobs. Port security isn't just about checking the contents of cargo containers, it also means checking the background of the 400,000 workers on our docks.

Anyone even nominally concerned with the security of the United States should have exercised a bit more caution while wielding the legislative scissors. This selective snip means we will continue to trust those already guilty of serious crimes to ensure A) that nothing illegal enters or leaves our ports, and B) that the rest of the people working on the docks are trustworthy individuals. This is sort of like allowing a drug addict to manage a pharmacy.

There are several reasons why this might have come about. Organized crime is omnipresent in the ports of our nation and facilitates the transfer of all types of contraband material. It is very likely that some members of Congress are on the mob’s good sides via massive campaign contributions. It is equally likely that some congressmen are on the mob’s bad side and are controlled by either dirt or death threats. Whatever the method of influence, organized crime has plenty of it and is well experienced in using it. If they said the provision had to go, then go it did.

Another reason: Unions, concerned that they would lose several of their outstanding members, fought to remove the provision. However, I’ve already discussed organized crime so it’s a bit redundant to cover labor unions as well.

The final and most obvious reason why the provision was killed? Why, several members of Congress would themselves be barred from the docks. A little professional courtesy was in order to avoid any embarrassing incidents.

On the plus side, the Port Security Act still forbids the employment of any who have been convicted of treason, espionage and terror-related offenses. Do we really want to wait until someone already arguably prone to such failings actually commits such a crime? This fails to make my sleep any easier.

Now, consider the furor over Bush’s past attempt to allow a Dubai-based company to handle port security. This idea was rapidly given a thumbs-down by the American public and (after conducting some quick surveys) our political representatives. If I were from Dubai, I would be extremely insulted to know that, simply because I was from an Arab country where the major religion is Islam and a quarter of the population is of Iranian origin, I had been passed over for a big job in favor of local thugs. Of course, this may be the lesser of two evils. After all, better the devil you know than the one you don’t.

The elimination of this provision was no mistake. It is the mark of those looking out for their own self-interests rather than the good of the nation as a whole. I’m reminded of two sayings, and please forgive me for not referencing the sources. They are:

1) Those we elect to political office should be dragged kicking and screaming to their new positions.
2) Elected officials, like diapers, should be changed often and for the same reason.


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