Panama Hat-chet Job

Those little fourth-graders back in 2005 are eleventh-graders now. High school juniors. How time does fly. They were the ones, remember, who wondered why “grown-ups” were allowing themselves to be snookered by the sharpies who were pushing for an expanded Panama Canal.

They came up with some pretty sensible questions back then, and we were embarrassed at our inability to come up with logical responses. So we made ourselves scarce at the time and we intend to stay in hiding at this stage of the game. Without a doubt, and with the passing of time, they know more and we know less, so it’s best if we keep them in the dark – at least about that much.

Can you just imagine how those busybody kids would react if they ever found out that:

– … the Global Container Terminal in Bayonne, New Jersey, has announced plans of a multi-million dollar expansion project timed to come online precisely in time to meet the demands of larger vessels coming through the widened Panama Canal?

– … that the new Triple E-Class vessels will be 1,200-feet long, 194-feet wide, and will carry 18,000 TEUs?

– … and that the commissioners at the Port of Tacoma – on the West Coast, mind you – have approved a contract to modify its Husky Terminal to handle those 18,000-TEU leviathans?
Those kids would jump all over those devious maneuvers. First of all, they’d point out, the folks in Panama have already figured out a way to shift the cost of their expansion project to the gullible U.S. “grown-ups”. According to the Canal’s Board of Directors, for goods transiting the Canal for the consumption by U.S. end-users, increased toll charges will be imposed from time-to-time to cover whatever costs or liabilities are incurred by the expansion project. Neat, huh? And the dumbed-down Americans don’t even have a clue.

And didn’t the commissioners at the Port of Tacoma already admit that the largest ships expected in the future will only be in the 8,500-TEU range? So why, the kids would ask, are port officials spending so much time and money on stupid expansion projects when everything is going south?

This whole scenario brings to mind the delightful story we heard told by that wonderful Irish comedian, Hal Roach. As he tells it, a newly-ordained priest was making his parish rounds one day when to his astonishment he saw Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself walking down the middle of the street. Almost in shock, the young cleric excitedly dialed up the Vatican and contacted the Pope.

“He’s here!” The young cleric shouted. “He’s here! He’s walking right down the middle of the street! He’s coming my way! What should I do?”

“Look busy!” the Pope advised. “Look busy!”