Since graduating from the military buzz-cuts administered by my pop — a career Chief Master SGT in the U.S. Air Force — in the backyard, to the professional coiffure I now receive as an adult, I have come to respect the wisdom of the barber. It is my contention that professional barbers are more informed about the economy and world affairs than most senators — no surprise there.
My barber Gino is from Russia. He came to America several years after the fall of the Soviet Union, where he saw an entire society disintegrate before his eyes. To start my most recent haircut, Gino began his well-thought-out oral thesis on the decay of American ideals as he pressed a hot towel to my face and massaged my neck. Gino may not speak English like a British scholar, but he had some points to make — and a captive audience.
“You know, dis is great country filled with stupid people,” he said, and I couldn’t argue — not with a hot towel covering my mouth. “Politicians take money from business and business only care about money — not country. Who is running country, Wal-Mart or people?” Once he removed the towel and began to trim my beard, I asked him what had him so stirred up.
“Mr. Steve, you in security business, no?” he asked. I said I was.
“Here is problem,” he said. “I watch Mr. Lou Dobbs on CNN last night. He would have made great Russian – he not happy ‘bout nothing. But he was talking ‘bout American company selling out to China and everybody OK with dat!” Gino said as his voice raised an octave with every word and the razor waving dangerously close to my left ear. “When did China become democratic state? I miss something? They worse Communists than we were!”
Of course Gino was referring to the proposed sale of 3Com Corp. — a world leader in intrusion prevention technologies designed to secure computer networks from hacker infiltration — to Communist China’s Huawei Technologies, which was set up in 1988 by a People’s Liberation Army officer to build military communications networks.
I guess we forgot that this past summer Communist China hacked into our DOD’s computer networks and caused a shutdown. Fortunately, the Committee on Foreign Investment (CIFUS) negated the sale, much to the surprise of the 3Com CEO and many politicians.
I tried to explain to Gino that we are experiencing a new world of global economics and that certain checks and balances are in place to ensure our national security. Finishing my last word, Gino leaned over the barber chair and shouted, “free trade is great thing when other country you are dealing with is in it for the same thing as you — making money,” he said. “Call me crazy, but I say national security take back seat to free trade. Somebody must get priorities in place.”
As Gino calmed down and my haircut neared its conclusion, he moved to the radio on the shelf behind him and turned up the news.
“Congressional leaders threatened yesterday to withhold funding for one of the U.S. military’s biggest aircraft programs because the $40 billion contract went to a group that includes a European manufacturer,” the newsman read. “Since Friday, when the Air Force awarded the initial part of a contract to replace 179 Air Force refueling tankers to the team of Northrop Grumman and EAD, congressional leaders have questioned why that bid was chosen over one by Boeing. Critics have said the Air Force’s outsourcing could threaten national security and have accused the service of not taking the creation of American jobs into account.”
Shutting off the radio Gino looked at me shaking his head. “See you in two weeks Mr. Steve. I pray for you if you pray for me,” he said with a serious look on face that intimated that he had played this scene before. “God Bless dis country.”
If you have any questions or comments for Steve Lasky regarding this or any other security industry-related issue, please e-mail him at email@example.com.