Monday, May 15, 2006

May 15, 2006--Kentucky Pork

I think it is at the end of the McLaughlin Group where panelists are asked to list their version of the “Outrage of the Week.” Usually such things as so-and-so leaking something inappropriate to the press or a congressional golf junket to Scotland. The kind of things to which we by now have grown numb.

There is, though, one outrage reported in yesterday’s NY Times (linked below) that snapped me out of my coma and is my candidate for the “Outrage of the Year.” It’s about a little-known Republican Congressman from the 5th district in southeastern Kentucky--Harold “Hal” Rogers.

When I saw the Times headline, “In Kentucky Hills, a Homeland Security Bonanza,” I assumed the story was another one about how congressional districts not on al Queda’s radar screen manage to get Homeland Security money in the spirit of the way Congress works—if there is money to go around, all 435 congressional districts get in line at the trough whether they need it or not.

But in Hal Rogers’ case considerable more is at stake. In his position as chair of the House subcommittee that controls the Homeland Security budget he directs money to projects that are supposed to protect us from terrorists.
After 9/11 Congress passed legislation to fund the production of a tamperproof universal Transportation Worker Identification Card that would assure that everyone who works at an airport, rail or boat terminal could not easily slip through security. Good idea.

But four years after the legislation was approved and tens of millions of dollars was appropriated, we still do not have the system in place. That is because the work was directed, via no-bid contracts, to companies in, you guessed it, Congressman Rogers’ district. Including to a company that employs his son.

To quote a senior security analyst at MJSK Equity Research which tracks the ID card industry, “Something stinks in Corbin, Kentucky.” Actually, it’s worse than that—something stinks in Washington.

You can get all the outrageous details in the full Times article, including the list of junkets he and his wife have been on, paid for by the very companies that have thus far failed to produce the ID cards the taxpayers have already paid for, including numerous trips to Hawaii, I assume during the winter, where he and the Mrs. presumably checked out the security system at Honolulu Airport.

I, though, have a practical question—don’t places such as the Los Alamos and the Sandia Labs already have tamperproof ID systems that could easily be adapted for transportation workers? I even think Congress has such a system for its own staff. By using one of these I suspect we could have saved the tens of millions already spent in Kentucky and, more important, the workers would have had the IDs years ago, and we would be securer in our homeland.


Blogger The Utah Resistance said...

The last 5 years have provided abundant evidence that we have vastly more to fear from the Cheney regime than from foreign terrorists. However cozy a "Transportation Worker Identification Card" might make you feel now, think about how its logical extension - a domestic passport - will make you feel when it is instituted tomorrow.

May 15, 2006  

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