Wednesday, February 22


If there's anything Elia Kazan, Mario Puzo, and David Chase taught me, it's that America's ports are made-to-order venues for mob infiltration and control. And there was a comfort in that, as amazing as that admission might sound. After all, as longshoreman Terry Malloy said to mob-controlled union boss Johnny Friendly:

You take them heaters away from you and you're nothing, you know that? You'll talk yourself in the river!

You take the good goods away and the kickbacks...and shakedown cabbage and the pistoleros and you're nothing! Your guts is all in your wallet and your trigger finger!

You gave it to Joey, you gave it to Dugan... and you gave it to Charley who was one of your own. You think you're God Almighty, but you know what you are? You're a cheap ... lousy, dirty, stinking mug ... and I'm glad what I done to you! You hear that? I'm glad what I done! And I'm going to keep on doing it ...

Life was so much simpler then. Get a cheese-eater -- you know, a canary -- to sing to the Crime Commission and law and order was restored to the docks.

But now, if George W. Bush and his accomplice, Jimmy Carter, have their way, the mob will be supplanted in short order by United Arab Emirates-owned Dubai Ports World and suddenly management of six major American ports, including the hiring and firing of dock workers, will become the province of Arabs!

The Johnny Friendlys are about to get a rude awakening, I'm afraid, from guys with names like Mohammed Zake Ammawi and Merwon Othaman El-Handi. And these guys are in to goat meat and suitcase bombs, not Veal Marsala and heaters. Worse, it doesn't take much to get their blood up. Michael Corleone may have always said, "It's business, it's not personal ...," but these new guys kill over cartoons and damn near everything under the sun is perceived by them as a slight to be avenged.

I guess the question for Americans is: do we want freight or an intifada to arrive at Hoboken's docks?