A storm over ports

storm in every port

Connecting a few dots

Last week Vice President Cheney shot a friend in the face; this week W is shooting himself in the foot. I say we should all get the hell out of the way!

A British-owned company has been running six major US ports: New York; Newark, N.J.; Philadelphia; Baltimore; Miami; and New Orleans. But that British company is being sold to Dubai Ports World, a company owned and run by the government of Dubai, putting operational control of these ports under the control of a foreign government. A firestorm of protest has broken out in the American heartland — and therefore in Congress — over concern that this may not be such a good idea.

George W Bush
"I can understand why some in Congress have raised questions about whether or not our country will be less secure as a result of this transaction. But they need to know that our government has looked at this issue and looked at it carefully."

Incurious George, who plays a president on TV, didn't know anything about the deal until after a top secret committee of the US government approved it (NYTimes, 22-Feb-06), but now that the deal has become public, W says the deal should go through, and he'll use his veto power to deal with any obstruction from the US Congress. Now there's a threat—W has not vetoed a single bill since he has been president! As if he would start now.

W says we should trust his judgment: "Our government has looked at this issue and looked at it carefully."

We've heard the "trust me" appeal so many times before: Iraq has weapons of mass destruction; US troups will be greeted as liberators; we can't wait for a mushroom cloud; the Iraq war will cost $200 billion, max; mission accomplished (that was back in 2003, by the way); Brownie was doing "a heck of a job"; Abu Ghraib was a few bad apples; etc., etc., etc. It's no wonder that this most recent claim has been greeted so dubiously.

W's statement is very revealing when he says: "our government has looked at this issue." Even nearly apopleptic Republicans — Republicans, mind! — can't get to a microphone fast enough to note that W seems to have forgotten that "our government" consists of three co-equal branches. You know W has stepped in deep doo-doo when both Bill Frist and Dennis Hastert say Not so fast, W!

Frankly, I wish the Congress had discovered its collective and bipartisan backbone over wrong-headed policies and abuse of power instead of a feeling of being slighted. But as they say, better late than never.

The dysfunction of this administration is just breathtaking. It didn't occur to Cheney to call his boss and mention that he'd just shot a guy in the face, and not one of the cabinet secretaries on that secret committee that approved this deal thought to mention it to W. W has taken the principle of delegation to a whole new low of obliviousness.

If W ran his oil businesses the way he runs the government, it's no wonder they all went belly-up and had to be rescued by daddy's friends. The last two weeks have made clear as never before that W really doesn't run the government or even the executive branch; he just plays at head of state. In that respect, he's just like Queen Elizabeth. But then, that's not surprising, since George Bush obviously thinks he's King George.

Let's connect a few dots: Treasury Secretary John Snow convened the panel that approved this deal. John Snow used to be in charge of CSX Corporation which, among other things, was a port operator. CSX's port operations have since been sold to — fanfare, please — Dubai Port World! (NYTimes editorial, 22-Feb-06)

Surely a connection to Halliburton will soon be revealed as well!

I don't know enough to say one way or another whether it's a good idea to let this "transaction" go through. I am very disturbed by the strong smell of anti-Arabism in opposition to the deal, as in, "...turn over operations to an Arab company!?!" I'd want to know a lot more before reaching a conclusion as to the merits of this particular deal. But I have absolutely no confidence in the Bush administration to have "looked at this issue and looked at it carefully." With port security such an obvious and critical vulnerability, it is even more crucial that the deal be subjected to greater scrutiny.

I certainly do not trust the judgment of a Homeland Security department that considers it a higher priority to make grandmothers and small children remove their shoes at airports than to inspect cargo containers entering our ports.

It's times like this that make me wish we had a parliamentary system that could hold a vote of no confidence and toss the rascals out. There's the possibility that people are so fed up they'll do a thorough house-cleaning in the next elections, but I had hope of that last time as well.