Mule skinners need background checks

Don't know what a mule skinner is?  Officially, it is any worker who drives mules.  But the mule skinners in this case are "seasonal workers who dress in colonial garb at a historical park in Easton, Pa." who use mules to pull boats up a canal located in the park.  Some of these workers have to get Coast Guard credentials to operate the boat (which is stupid enough).  But the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 requires that anyone holding US Coast Guard credentials "must apply for biometric Transportation Worker Identification Credentials (TWIC)".  I would cry if it just wasn't so darn hilarious.

In this story from CNN, the mule skinners say that they just don't want to pay the extra (at least) $100 for the TWIC card when they are already paying for the Coast Guard license (which, I repeat, is stupid).  Rep. Charles Dent, R-Pennsylvania, wrote to the TSA asking for a waiver.  As you would expect, he got a "too bad, that's above our paygrade, just get the card" response (that's not an exact quote, but it sums it up nicely I think). 

So Dent went to new Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and showed her a picture of the mule skinners and their mules (Hank and George) pulling the boat up the canal.  Dent, who seems to be a pretty funny guy, said, "Now Hank and George, while sometimes are ornery, they are not terrorists".  Napolitano concurred and is trying to figure out a way to get a waiver for Hank and George.  Well, actually, the waiver is for the mule skinners.  I don't think biometric devices for hooves are on the market yet.

Sarah B. Hays, the park's director of operations, summed it very nicely:

I think the rule was written and the policy was set up for all the big shipping, and they never even considered something outside the normal bounds.

You are spot on, Ms. Hays.  The government has a job to do, but that bloated bureaucracy hardly ever thinks about the ramifications of its actions.  And while I hardly think the TSA has the time to research to see if their rules are going to affect mule skinners, I do think that the very first letter they received should have made them create the waiver.

Of course, now we will have a GAPING hole that terrorists are sure to full.  Watch out for mule skinner suicide bombers.  If you see a mule strapped with C4, call the cops.


Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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