"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Dubai: Don't Sell

In case you thought that Laura Ingraham's on-line poll showing 90 percent opposition to the port sale was skewed by the well-known predilections of her listenership, I thought I should pass along that the MSNBC poll, not encumbered with rightward leanings, is at 88 percent against and holding.

14 comments:

Evanston said...

Mr. Homnick, could you post a link to the MSNBC poll? I clicked around their site and couldn't find it. I'm interested in the phrasing of the question. I believe this issue has been framed incorrectly, and honestly disagree with you regarding the merits of excluding an Arab-owned corporation. This action will only generate a false sense of security. Smuggling/theft is as old as the shipping business. Security concerns can be addressed in the port operations contract awarded to the UAE company, but ultimately must be addressed by the security operation (separate function). I know you've considered all this, but in a rush to have an opinion (did MSNBC ask "Should Arabs run our ports?") we risk mis-characterizing the question. We need to focus our attention and funding on the security opertions, we will always have shady characters trying to evade procedures in our ports.

Tlaloc said...

Evanston, let me ask you an honest question:

If the Republican politicians started listening to their base and decided to make border control a real issue but their response was to hand it over to a firm owned by the Mexican government wouldn't you be just a little taken aback?

Not because all mexicans are untrustworth or even because Mexico is untrustworthy but because

A) it's a foreign country which mean they implicitly do not have our best interests as their primary concern.
B) it happens to be a foreign country that has benefited from our lax border controls and is therefore disinclined to actually effectively do what we ask them to do.
C) it also happens to be a country with a large number of people who are interested in subverting the system we want in place.

It seems pretty clear this is a case of asking the fox to guard the henhouse.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

Sorry T, but this is more akin to having a taco stand on the US side of the border that is run by Mexicans.

Unfortunately, the high poll numbers (IMO) show that there is an irrational fear of anything "arab" in this country.

While I am aghast that Bush is threatening his first veto (he ought to have at least a few threats under his belt), I do agree with him in principal.

From a political standpoint, however, this is what we have (unfortunately) learned to expect from Bush.

Tlaloc said...

"Sorry T, but this is more akin to having a taco stand on the US side of the border that is run by Mexicans."

How do you figure? The deal isn't to let the UAE run a business in the US. It's to let them run the ports that allow transit to and from the US.



"While I am aghast that Bush is threatening his first veto (he ought to have at least a few threats under his belt), I do agree with him in principal."

Again, so if border control was to be administered by a mexican company how would you feel about that?

See I can understand wanting border control. Makes sense to me although I'm not concerned with illegal immigrants so much as people who want something a bit nastier than a $1.75 and hour job washing dishes.

But, while I can sympathize with the desire, the idea of out sourcing your border control seem unbelievably ridiculous. Why bother calling them secure at all if you aren't the one holding the keys?

And no infrastructure should ever be outsourced to a firm owned majorly by a foreign country. Ever. That's just a huge recipe for disaster.

(Besides which if the concern is protectionism how exactly is it more supportive of free trade to have a state owned company run the ports when the state is UAE instead of the USA? For it to be truly a free market they'd need to find a company that is, you know, a free market entity...)

James Elliott said...

If I recall, didn't Bush threaten to veto his own defense spending bill if the McCain anti-torture amendment was included in it?

I kind of agree with CLA. I think the fear is mostly irrational "Arab-baiting." The only publicly vocal person I've heard with a good reason to be leery of the deal in terms of national security was Randi Rhodes on Air America. She pointed out that Dubai's notoriously lax gold exchange is a principal money laundering venue for terrorists (specifically al Qaeda) and that the exchange, like Dubai Ports World, is owned directly by the Dubai royal family. The family is at least tangentially complicit (by turning a blind eye at the minimum) in enabling terrorists.

Like I've said elsewhere, I think the real scandal is the impropriety - real or merely appearance-wise - of how the investment was vetted by the government.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

And no infrastructure should ever be outsourced to a firm owned majorly by a foreign country. Ever. That's just a huge recipe for disaster.

Simple question ... why not? Give a reason. You write with a style and flare that can lead people down the path of agreement, but you are lacking any reason.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

If I recall, didn't Bush threaten to veto his own defense spending bill if the McCain anti-torture amendment was included in it?

I'm sure your right ... my memory is not that good.

How 'bout: Bush should be making his Nth veto threat, which could lead to his Mth veto, where N>M>1? :)

Tlaloc said...

"Simple question ... why not? Give a reason."

Sure. The reason is quite simple: because you are then giving another nation a measure of control over your countries infrastructure. I don't think it's even remotely smart to let anyone (even someone we consider a close ally) to be in charge of our road maintenance for instance. Or our airports. Or our shipping ports. Or our power grid. Or our water supplies. And so on.

I can understand the argument that a free market solution can work. I generally disagree with it but I can understand it. But What possible good reason is there for turning over national infrastructure to another country?

They don't have our best interests at heart, they have their own best interest at heart and even if we mostly see eye to eye (as with say Britain) then it's a mistake to give them conrtol over those parts of our country we need.

Port control should be run by the government. Barring that then by a company with legitimately no conflicting interests. Ownership by a foreign state, any foreign state is automatically a conflict of interest.



"You write with a style and flare that can lead people down the path of agreement, but you are lacking any reason."

Well, I am blond.

Jay D. Homnick said...

I had hoped to link to the poll, but they don't have it on a particular page. It's on the bottom of their news stories. When you vote, you get to see the current standings.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

The reason is quite simple: because you are then giving another nation a measure of control over your countries infrastructure.

I disagree.

You are not giving them a measure of control. If they don't do their job they are fired. The USA remains in control.


They don't have our best interests at heart.

I agree to an extent. They have their best interests at heart, which includes keeping their job. Thus indirectly they most certainly have our best interest at heart.


You have not given a single argument that is specific to a company that is run by a foreign government that cannot be applied to ANY company.

I could change my mind given a good argument (or maybe I'm just dense), I just have not seen one yet.


For example, would you object to the USA (or your pharmacist) buying pharmaceuticals from a company owned by a foreign country?

Tlaloc said...

"You are not giving them a measure of control. If they don't do their job they are fired. The USA remains in control."

I'm sorry CLA but that's just not realistic. You might as well say that no manager in any company anywhere has any control because he'll be fired if he doesn't do his job.

First of all you have to have an agrressive system in place to police infractions, then you have to actually catch them. Neither is a good bet on the best of days and when talking about a foreign owned corporation that isn't being required to keep paper documents in the US it is virtually guaranteed not to happen.



"They have their best interests at heart, which includes keeping their job. Thus indirectly they most certainly have our best interest at heart."

Not their best interest is the welfare of their country. If they get ahead by hurting us it's an easy call. Sure after it gets egregious enough they may lose their job. Waaah. In the meantime they have the ability to strangle us if they choose to.



"You have not given a single argument that is specific to a company that is run by a foreign government that cannot be applied to ANY company."

Not true. With a strictly capitalist company you can argue that they have their financial best interest invested in doing a good job. With a foreign owned company they have their patron companies political interests first.

But like I said already it should be nationalized anyway. Having a truly independent company run it is a distant second choice. Having a company beholden to our enemies (not to mince words) run it shouldn't even be an option.



"For example, would you object to the USA (or your pharmacist) buying pharmaceuticals from a company owned by a foreign country?"

No of course not assming that such chemicals are inspected and certified. In fact I wouldn't even object to foreign companies operating pharmacies in the US if they are again certified. But the simple fact is that pharmacies are not exactly critical infrastructure. Our ports are.

What exactly do you think would happen to our economy is the managing company created additional bureaucracy that decreased port efficiency by say a third?

Easy to do and justify, but it's be a huge hit to us.

Alternatively what if said company starts subtly increasing the delays and costs of all trafic from countried that are not friendly with UAE? They can leverage US economic might to serve UAE political interests easily.

You think that this government will exercise real oversite given the way they've gutted every corporate oversite board in every other area?


"

Evanston said...

Tlaloc, sorry to have not addressed your assertion earlier, I was busy. You've had lots of back-and-forth with JFE and CLA in the meantime, but I'll return to your original attempt at analogy. You compared running port operations to "border control...but their response was to hand it over to a firm owned by the Mexican government...It seems pretty clear this is a case of asking the fox to guard the henhouse." Your example is clearly NOT analogous. The port operations firm (whether American, British or UAE) doesn't do "border control" nor "guard" anything. My question to Mr. Homnick (regarding the MSNBC poll) was sparked by such improper framing of the issue. You've been sucked in by this. As I concluded, shady characters have always been trying to evade procedures in our ports. I worked for 3 1/2 years at an operation in Jacksonville, FL and we had a U.S. Marine convicted later of stealing several automobiles from the port. I mention this because you could hardly get more "nationalized" and "patriotic" than a U.S. Marine, yet he ended up doing time in Ft. Leavenworth.
The key is to concentrate on our security funding and procedures. There are many articles online about this today, including at Townhall.com. I'm not saying that this issue is a slam-dunk "yes" or "no" but for Mr. Homnick to cite polls ginned up in the MSM's rush to slime Bush is silly.
In the meantime, the Administration and UAE firm were smart to "buy time" and allow for a 6 month delay in the takeover. At least now we'll have some modicum of due process and reasoned debate, including a review of how our security procedures interact with the port operations companies, regardless of who owns them. If, on balance, they believe that a U.S.-owned firm is preferable, I'll respect the decision. But I have no respect for a "Should Arabs run our ports?"-type question because this is, at best, misleading and at worst, jingoistic.
In closing, please remember that I'm no fan of Islam and served in Iraq in 2004. I'm all for national security, I just don't want us to fool ourselves into a false sense of security.

Tlaloc said...

"Your example is clearly NOT analogous. The port operations firm (whether American, British or UAE) doesn't do "border control" nor "guard" anything."

While I agree that they are not directly guarding they are running the port which means they have a very strong ability to circumvent those who are doing the guarding. Who knows a business better than the ones who run it? Who better to hide what they want hidden?

Besides which obviously the administration believes they have something to do with the security of the port because they had them sign an agreement to the effect that they'd help maintain security. If they had no control over it there would be no need right?

(thanks for getting back to the question, BTW)

Evanston said...

Tlaloc, you're absolutely right, if "bad guys" mean to do harm it's always best to have inside knowledge and infiltrate with employees loyal to you.
Referring back to my previous comment, I was incorrect about a "6 month delay" to review the corporate takeover by the UAE company. Right now 45 days is the number making the headlines. It could always be extended, of course. The businessmen are smart and will extend until they think the answer will be "yes" to allowing the takeover.
As stated, I'm OK with an answer of "no" as long as we are rational about the whole thing.