Saturday, March 11, 2006

Some more on the (late) Port Deal.....

The port deal is dead! Long live the port deal!

Of course now the recriminations are starting. Cringing and fear of the backlash. Debating over who really stated the facts of the case. Weeping and wailing that America is a "xenophobic" and "fear mongering" country. And finally, who gets to benefit both politically and financially now?

I've made no secret that I wanted the port deal to die and I am glad that in the process, George W. Bush got his nose tweaked. Its only taken 6 years for Congress to grow a pair and stand up to him and his policies. What made them take action now? Because for once they listened to the American people. As one pundit said, " On the one side you had the hearfelt feeling of the majority of the American people and on the other you had the Wall Street Journal. For once the Journal lost.......". That sums it up pretty well I think.

Lets take a quick glance at the issues the deal raised:

Port Security- Regardless of who owns these 6 terminals, its clear that the United States can and should be doing more to improve port security. Its estimated that no more of 5% of containers entering the US get inspected and that figure is thought to be high. I think that if nothing else this argument should serve to highlight how the Administration is robbing Peter to pay Paul in its budgets and is under resourcing vital homeland security issues to pay for its wars over seas. And there are other port terminals that are foreign owned. Singapore Ports Authority has controlling interests in several terminals especially on the West Coast. This issue cannot be left to die and as was shown on the news, state ownership of port terminals is a viable option.

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The debate over whether a foreign government should be allowed to take over port operations in American ports was never of any concern to the Port of Charleston.
LUCY DUNCAN-SCHEMAN, PRESIDENT & CEO, SAFE PORTS:
It just can't happen here because of the way our port is authorized to operate. It is not a landlord port.

TUCKER: That's because the Port of Charleston is owned and operated by the state of South Carolina. It's what's known as an operating port. Charleston is the biggest such port in America. It operates the cranes, loads and unloads the ships, it's responsible for port security. It has an operating profit margin of 30 percent.
BERNARD GROSECLOSE, PRESIDENT & CEO, STATE PORT AUTHORITY: Last year alone, we increased our container volumes by over 14
percent. Our revenues went up 18 percent. And our operating expenses went up
less than one-third of 1 percent. So it is a very effective model.

TUCKER: Maersk, the world's largest shipping line, acknowledged that fact by recently naming Charleston it's second most productive port in the world. There are roughly 30 operating ports in America, according to the American Association of Port Authorities. Charleston is one. The port of Savannah, another, and the Port of Norfolk, Virginia, yet another. The difference between these ports and the Port Authority of New York-New Jersey, which is a landlord port, is that landlord ports lease out control of operations to outside companies. Operating ports don't. Control is central.
ROBERT BRAY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, VIRGINIA PORT AUTHORITY: The operating port has been by far the better way to go, because we
were able to control the operation, which means you control the service to your
ship line customers. And then we were also able to rationalize a service that we
didn't have to build any more facilities that were absolutely necessary. And
that, of course, with the security concerns we have, we're able to control the
security environment.


So it can work with US control.

Racism and Fear- Lets face it, the fact that the prospective owners of the P&O wear sheets and rags on their heads had a definite role to play in the public revulsion over this issue. I think no matter how you slice it, Americans are suspicious of Arabs. And with good reason. These are the same people who jack up our oil prices, breed terrorists, subscribe to an apostate religion that cannot stand a few cartoons, and in the case of the UAE, has acted both for and against American security depending on who is paying the bill. People forget that they have allowed contraband material through their ports after the US asked them not to do it. So perhaps its racist, but perhaps its just a reasonable frustration that year after year we expend blood, treasure, and precious resources- all for the benefit of a group of people who care less about us and are deep down ungrateful. Americans harbor , what I consider to be a healthy, suspicion of Arabs in general and oil shiekhs in particular. Its probably well earned. If that makes us racist so be it. The Arabs brought it on themselves.

Administration Priorities- I've said it before, Bush talks a good game, but his actions speak very differently. And when it comes to economic and corporate policy.........well Lou Dobbs sums it up pretty well:

Make no mistake, in Washington, the voice of business is heard loud and clear. The Medicare prescription drug plan was a boon for drug companies, just as the energy bill gave billions in subsidies to enormously profitable oil companies. And president's American Jobs Creation Act, a rewriting of the corporate tax code, which likely created more jobs overseas. And the corporate tax rate is near the lowest level in history.

PETER MORICI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: It seems as though George Bush's behaving like a president of a multinational corporation and not like the president of the United States. He seems to be more concerned about the vitality of larger American multinationals with significant positions
in places like China and Europe, and not at all concerned about the security of the United States, American workers or so forth.


ROMANS: That's where the outrage over the trade deficit and this ports deal merge. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Because of our trade policies, the trade deficit with China, for example, last month alone was almost $18 billion. And the fact is, increased budget deficits mean the U.S. is in desperate need of foreign capital to keep the nation running --

Lou.DOBBS: And as a footnote, an important one, the trade deficit last month was $68.5 billion. And if you're keeping track, that is a record monthly trade deficit.


Says it pretty clear about the Presidents priorities and I agree- although I know there are those who don't. You can go read about the other side elsewhere.

I do have one final point though. I think timing had a lot to do with this defeat. Last year I think the deal would not have raised as much out cry. However in 2005 and 2006 several things came together to make Americans angry and suspicious of Arab merchants bearing gifts. And they all worked together to create a "perfect storm". It may not happen again. Then again:

The war in Iraq drags on and on and on on .......
The idiocy of the cartoons and the fact that Muslims as a whole can's seem to take a joke.
Outrage over US jobs going overseas.
Anger over the lack of an immigration policy and that fact that our borders are porous.
Seeing the their own President ignore their wishes and stick up for those of Arabs did not help the public relations battle either.

In the end, we'll probably lose a Boeing aircraft purchase and some other things. Much as it pains me to admit, Congressman Barney (homo) Frank summed it up well:

I mean, I agree with the president that it's probably done some damage to relations with some of the Arabs, but that's entirely his fault. If they had any sensitivity, they would have told Dubai last October, you know what, why don't you go out and buy a chain of movie theaters, why don't you go out and buy some commercial real estate, why don't you go out and buy a factory making DVDs. This is not the right time for you to run this.


Screw the Arabs. Losing this deal means they will just have less Filipinos working as their maids next week. In the meantime the good guys won one this time! Hooray for the Good Guys! (The American people).

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