The NY Times reports that Governors George Pataki and Robert Ehrlich have joined the anti-Arab chorus against Dubai Ports World which will assume control of the leases of several major east coast ports:
The Republican governors of New York and Maryland on Monday joined the growing chorus of criticism of an Arab company’s takeover of operations at six major American ports. Both raised the threat of legal action to void contracts at ports in New York City and Baltimore.
“I have directed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to explore all legal options that may be available to them in regards to this transaction,” Gov. George E. Pataki of New York said in a statement.
The only problem is the Port Authority can’t seem to find a legal basis to break the lease:
Anthony R. Coscia, the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said the agency could not stop the Dubai company from assuming a 30-year lease on a major container terminal in New York Harbor unless some provision of the lease was violated.
Another thing to keep in mind here is that if Pataki thinks he can break the lease through legal action, he should keep in mind that DPW probably would have a great case against any state or federal government action which denied it the right to exploit its assets (the leases). If Bush caves on this, I hope DPW sues the pants off the pols (and their respective government entities) who started this purely political rant against Arab business. Let’s bring these jerks into court to explain themselves before a judge. I’m sorry for being intemperate. I genuinely support Schumer, Clinton and Menendez on 80% or more of their agenda. But this is an outrage and no matter how progressive (I know, lately Clinton hasn’t deserved that moniker) they don’t deserve a pass on this one.
Here’s some more racist rant from Chuck Schumer:
Senator Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat, said, “You would just think that when a Dubai company is taking over, that is enough to raise a flag…
This is the same Dubai (part of the United Arab Emirates) which is the only Mideast nation to allow U.S. officials to inspect U.S. bound cargo from its point of origin (considered a much more effective security precaution than checking at the port of destination). This is the same Dubai which is perhaps the U.S.’s closest Mideast ally. The same Dubai which has spoken publicly of a desire to talk with Israel about closer ties. And again, read between the lines here. Schumer is really thinking: “You would think that when an ARAB company is taking over…”
Opponents also talk of UAE’s human rights record as a reason DPW should not run the ports. And this is apropos of what? How do human rights violations impact operation of a foreign port? They note that 9/11 terrorists used the UAE banking system to arrange for financing of the terror plot. This of course leaves aside that those same terrorists, once they arrived on our shores used our own banking system for the same purpose. They note that two of the 9/11 terrorists were from UAE. Which proves that 2 out of approximately 1 million citizens are terrorists. I say again, how does this impact running a foreign port? Opponents say we’re outsourcing jobs (I think Senator Chuck also made that argument) when in fact the ports will continue being operated precisely as they have been and by the same personnel. DPW has bought the British lease holder P&O but will keep the latter company and all its personnel in place. This is a transaction involving capital, not corporate restructuring.
Opponents also argue that no foreign owned company should operate a U.S. port, which loses sight of the fact that some of our largest are already operated by such companies. And even if you narrow your target by claiming you’re against companies owned by foreign governments (as is DPW) operating our ports, you’ve still got the China Shipping Holding Company running the ports of Long Beach (CA) and San Francisco. So you see the sticky wicket we’re in here? Unless you want to completely unravel our system of operating our ports and abrogate leases right and left, not to mention insulting foreign companies and their governments, you don’t have far to go with this argument.
This reminds me a bit of one of one of the arguments against U.S. torture of Al-Qaeda prisoners. If you torture them, so the argument went, then what’s to stop the next U.S. solider captured by Islamic extremists from being tortured? You’ve done it to us and now we’ll return the favor. Seems reasonable in a totally twisted sort of way. In this case though, the issue is: if the U.S. abrogates DPW’s leases then what’s to stop foreign governments from doing the same to our multinationals when they wish to do business abroad? Remember, what goes around comes around. And who will be the first to denounce such governments for their blatant politicization of trade and commerce? Some of these same bloggers and commenters.
There is a curious “down the rabbi hole” Alice in Wonderland feel to this argument within the progressive blog world (in which I include this blog). If you read this anti-deal post at Daily Kos (where you’ll also find my own diary entry with fifty sometimes-interesting comments) you’ll note that there is a very strong sentiment, perhaps the majority, against this deal. Pointing out the racism inherent in the argument against DPW doesn’t help. Pointing out that both foreign owned companies AND foreign government-owned companies already manage some of our biggest U.S. ports doesn’t seem to help. Pointing out the fallacy of the “outsourcing jobs” argument (who do they think handles cargo and security at U.S. ports–Osama? No it’s good old Americans) doesn’t work. Pointing out that their position throws them squarely into the lap of Michelle Malkin, Little Green Footballs, and Captain’s Quarters doesn’t seem to give them pause.
I’m sorry to say that normally sharp, incisive and progressive bloggers like Atrios, Think Progress, and Crooks and Liars have lost their bearings on this. So how does the progressive community end up in bed with far-right conservatives? Beats the hell out of me. But if people opposed to this deal did a little more thinking and reading they’d realize the utter pointlessness of their argument. Saying you’re opposed to foreign control of U.S. ports is like a guy who’s just won the lottery saying “I detest money and will never on any account possess any.” The cat’s already out of the bag. How’re ya gonna get it back in?
If you’d like to read more about this perspective on the ports controversy please take a look at (or listen to) NPR‘s two stories today (second report), Lounsberry and Dennis the Peasant who each nail the subject perfectly while coming at it from slightly different angles.