The Sparin’ O’ The Green

Did we just say $ 402 billion? It gets even better than that. Lisa Friedman reports from Washington that California lawmakers just introduced a $ 4 billion bill aimed at preventing a terrorist attack.

1. “Sponsored by Reps. Jane Harman, D-El Segundo, and Dan Lundgren, R-Sacramento, the measure would establish minimum standards for cargo container screening …

“Lundgren is scheduled to conduct a Friday round table at the Port of Long Beach with other elected officials, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and representatives of the Port of Los Angeles to discuss the security measures proposed in his bill …

“He noted that Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., is backing the legislation and a hearing is scheduled for Thursday …

“About $ 2 billion of the proposed funding in the Security and Accountability for Every Port Act will go for risk-based grants over 5 years. The rest will go toward research and development to improve maritime security and other provisions.”

[It’s clear in Lisa’s report that $ 2 billion of the proposed $ 4 billion will go toward research and development to improve maritime security and other provisions. In other words, let’s just continue to throw taxpayer money at the problem and maybe we’ll get lucky and come up with something that works.]

2. Just one day before that, in a story we covered in Wednesday’s commentary, PETER DUJARDIN reported from Norfolk that U.S. Rep. Robert C. Scott and Virginia Port Authority executive director J. Robert Bray, in a joint statement, urged inspection for 100% of all imported cargo containers for bombs and terrorist weapons.

“Scott, D-Newport News, and Bray, the nation’s longest-running director at a major seaport, said the federal government needs to install the radiation detection machines and image readers necessary to scan every incoming container with both machines.

“Only about 5 percent of containers – the 40-foot steel boxes that carry the overwhelming majority of the nation’s nonbulk cargo – go through scanners at most ports now.

“‘The thing that has to be done, in my judgement, to satisfy the American public and to provide better security is to inspect electronically and with radiation detectors every container that’s loaded overseas and then again when it comes off the ship before it goes inland,’ Bray said in a press conference with Scott at Norfolk International Terminals.”

[Peter DuJardin’s report makes it clear that 100 percent of all imported containers must be inspected/scanned twice – once when loaded overseas and again when it comes off the ship.]

3. The Heritage Foundation’s contradictory “Web Memo” of March 14, 2006, reads as follows:

“Port Security: Four Examples of What Not To Do.
by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D

“The furor over the proposed sale of a London-based firm that operates facilities at some U.S. ports to a company in the United Arab Emirates has focused Congress’s attention on the issue of maritime security. The U.S. part of this deal appears to be dead, but real dangers remain – specifically, that Congress will implement policies that will not make Americans safer and could actually harm U.S. interests. There are at least four bad proposals on the table that Congress should reject.

“Bad Idea No. 1. – Throw Money at the Problem. [Check back on our item # 1.] Congress’s first inclination will be to increase port security grants, which are popular among many Members’ constituents. However, Congress has already dumped hundreds of millions of federal dollars into these grants. The Homeland Security Inspector General found that this money is already being wasted and many of these grants brought only minimal benefits. One, for example, went to a Fortune 500 company with $ 1.2 billion in profits – to buy a fence …

“Bad Idea No. 4. – Inspect Everything. [Check back on our item # 2.] Inspecting every container that is shipped to the U.S. makes no sense. Doing so would cost billions of dollars and would drown authorities in useless information. Nor is it clear why every container would need to be inspected. The ‘nuke-in-a-box’ scenarios deployed to justify such drastic measures are highly implausible. Physically inspecting every container will not make Americans much safer but will increase the cost of just about everything that American consumers buy…”

Dr. Carafano ends with these words: “Congress should do better than adopting proposals that will harm the U.S. economy while doing little to prevent terrorism.”

That last line says it all. Too bad our 535 elected members of Congress fail to see things that way, however.

Let’s spend another minute or two on the cure-all we’ve been touting in these commentaries – now that the ante has been upped to $ 4 billion. To begin with, the construction and conversion of container ships in newly-revitalized U.S. shipyards would do wonders for our economy. [Please review the economic benefits in Vol. IV, Art. 18.] We’re referring, of course, to the construction of ships fitted or retrofitted with our patented storage and retrieval systems, and the $ 4 billion mentioned above would pay for the construction of several hundred of these vessels.

These shipboard systems also provide complete and absolute security using onboard scanning units while the vessel is underway. Easy access to every container, regardless of its location, makes it possible to locate any and every suspect container, and to jettison that container if necessary. We’d no longer be required to place our trust on foreign personnel whose allegiances might run counter to our own. And we’d no longer be concerned about that real or imagined “nuke-in-a-box” that obsesses so many of our leading lights. Our security would be assured.