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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Empty Suit Thursday: Flag, screen, inspect

Posted by: Hammer / 1:50 PM

Sen. Smilin' Norm Coleman (R-MN) was kind enough to send out the latest issue of Norm's Notes. Couple of really interesting things.

Port security

It is clear we have gaps in the system. Currently, we are only screening around 40 percent of cargo containers entering the U.S. And while we do screen those containers flagged as the most dangerous, we must work to ensure that every container entering the U.S. is properly screened and accounted for. Last December, I traveled to Hong Kong and witnessed firsthand a program that demonstrates the potential to screen 100 percent of maritime containers with both x-ray and radiation detection equipment. We need to take this action at home and I have subsequently introduced a bill that would require the Department of Homeland Security to develop a plan to screen 100 percent of all containers entering the U.S. In a post-9/11 world, we can afford nothing less.

I'm not expert in this area by any stretch. Seems to me that we need to decide what some of these words mean. Do we flag some, screen everything that is flagged plus many other containers, and inspect everything suspicious after the screening? We are not shining a flashlight into 40% of the containers entering this country.

This is what the Homeland Security Department says:

CBP uses intelligence and a risk-based strategy to screen information on 100% of cargo before it is loaded onto vessels destined for the United States. All cargo that is identified as high risk is inspected, either at the foreign port or upon arrival into the U.S.

Norm says we screen 40%; Customs and Border Protection says its 100%. Everything "high risk" is inspected somewhere -- but not necessarily by CBP. But even Smilin' Norm says we're "inspecting only 5 percent of containers coming into this country". Do we know what we're doing? Do we know what we ought to be doing? Norm's answer is essential correct. We need to do more, but we need to be smart about when, where, and how we handle security. Generally speaking, we should screen everything to assess the potential security hazards. Based on the screening, we should identify what needs to be inspected.


Norm saddles up his high horse for this triumphant ride:

I deeply regret the Senate’s failure to act last week on the important issue of immigration reform. Although a broad bipartisan agreement had been reached that would have secured our borders and provided for a common-sense temporary worker program, procedural maneuvering by the Democratic leader, Harry Reid, stopped us from moving forward.

By refusing to allow votes on amendments by my colleagues, procedural trickery blocked substantive reform.

That tricky, tricky Harry Reid stopped the bill from going forward. He must be super, duper tricky to get so many Republicans to vote with him.

Sweet Spirits of Ammonia emphatically opposes Coleman's idea of immigration reform. Not that I'm endorsing Sweet Spirits.

United Nations

Back in March, the UN voted 170 to 4 to create a new Human Rights Council. The U.S. voted against the council and has now chosen to abstain from the council because certain reforms were rejected by the U.N. Coleman disagrees with the administration's decision to abstain from the council. I agree with Coleman. Despite its flaws, engagement is better than disengagement.

WCCO's energy report

Smilin' Norm chimed in on WCCO's report on energy:

"This is not Jimmy Carter's we're all gonna suffer," said Republican Senator Norm Coleman. ...

"This is a national security threat. Dependence on foreign oil threatens to undermine the security of the United States of America, today. And certainly in the future," said Coleman.

We're not all gonna suffer? Good. But we're all gonna die? Not so good. Geez; imagine the horrors of adopting moderate conservation and efficiency goals from the 1970s forward. If we had increased efficiency by .5% a year since 1976, we'd be in a much better, healthier, secure country.

But wait one second. In a separate story for WCCO, Coleman says we are all, in fact, gonna suffer:

"You're going to lose your job," Coleman said. "You're going to lose your ability to pay for heating when it's very cold in Minnesota. We're talking about catastrophic, we're talking about, and I'm not a ‘the sky is falling’ kind of guy, but we're talking about cataclysmic impacts upon the American economy."

Jesus, Norm. Wouldn't it be better if we all just put on sweaters?

Note: I'm going to try to review the video. I might be misunderstanding Coleman's pot shot at Carter. It's possible that Coleman is being consistent in these statements.

Decades? Did he say decades?

Smilin' Norm likes talking about the economy. Without a doubt, the national economy is stronger today than it has been for several years. But here we see Smilin' Norm take leave of reality:

"It is great to see the numbers add up," said Coleman. "More Americans and college grads are finding their way into the workforce, showing an increased confidence by employers in our economy. Economic numbers haven’t looked this good in decades, and it’s important that we continue working hard until every American has economic security and the opportunity for a good-paying job."

I guess Coleman kept his eyes closed throughout the 1990s. More likely, he means "economic numbers haven't looked this good -- for Republicans -- in decades". I also like this statement:

[T]he economy has now added 5.1 million jobs since the President’s pro-growth tax policies were implemented in May 2003.

I guess that means Bush spent the first two years in office either implementing anti-growth tax policies or doing nothing at all. There were tax cuts in 2001, 2002, and 2003. In 2001, taxes were cut by $74 billion. In 2002, taxes were cut by $51 billion. In 2003, taxes were cut by $61 billion. Why doesn't Norm want to credit all the tax cuts for a stronger economy? Why does he want to wait until 2003 to begin his count? Because the economy was terrible after the first Bush tax cuts (not because of the tax cuts, mind you, but you must remember that we didn't have a net increase in private sector jobs under Bush's watch until the fall of 2004.)

Gay marriage

Here's a consitutent letter from Norm endorsing a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. I think this is a follow up to the original letter.


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