7 thoughts on “Raimondo Attacks Pols’ “Arab-Hatred” in Ports Deal – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. I’m really frustrated at this kind of opportunism in the Democratic party. I can probably count the number of times I’ve agreed with President George the Lesser on less than a full set of yakuza-adjusted left-hand fingertips, but it’s very sad that he’s occupying the moral high ground in this case.

    There’s so many places where Democrats could offer real thought leadership as an alternative to the Bush-driven national agenda, and this is the way they choose to differentiate themselves? By retreating into isolationist, jingoistic, racist fear-mongering?

    Al Qaeda doesn’t run the company that’s bought its way into these port management leases, and there’s nobody claiming any anti-competitive behavior. US Customs, the FDA, and the USDA aren’t any less enabled to do their jobs at these ports. US shipping traffic and border patrol may have its holes, but this is not one of them; this is about who has the power to push paperwork around and handle large volumes of low margin money.

    This lease isn’t giving the UAE government the power to control US ports, even if it is a state-owned enterprise; it’s a profit-driven company, whose primary interest is in maintaining its ability to generate income. And neither the UAE government’s nor Dubai Ports World’s interests are likely to have much to gain by allowing terrorists to run amok around a bunch of container ships. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Weberian or a Marxist, you can’t argue against the inexorable powers of the combination of institutional and material interests.

    This issue is probably even less interesting than the “risk” of “allowing” Arab businesses or individuals to own U.S. skyscrapers or airplanes, or baseball teams. Are we sure we should allow any U.S. companies to lease port terminals? After all, the U.S. is the country where Timothy McVeigh was born.

    I’m an importer and I’ve been to air cargo terminals, and I’ve dealt with people who work at sea freight terminals. Let me tell you, any security weaknesses in these ports are not due to the country where their corporate parentage is established. It comes down to the quality of the people who work there, the quality of their security procedures, and the resources of US authorities to inspect freight. And regardless of the country of origin corporate leaseholder, most of the staff at those ports are either going to be US-born union workers or paper shufflers, and will consist of a fairly high percentage of Hispanic immigrants and other (rarely Arabic) ethnic minorities.

    The Coast Guard and the TSA are still supposed to do their part for security, and I can’t see how a difference in the owner of the master lease of a terminal is going to make them less effective.

    Security of ports is impacted mostly by the volume of cargo movement. If you want 9 or 10 million containers to be inspected every year, you’re going to need about 30,000 people to do that, maybe 2 billion dollars a year to throw at the problem, and that’s going to raise freight costs by about $200-250 per shipping container. I know I’m already paying a few security-related surcharges; if this is what we’re really worried about, maybe the conversation should be about how to get the right amount of resources on the problem.

  2. I’m not thrille with the idea of other nations’ state-owned companies managing our ports but my biggest objection to the deal is that the secret agreement that requires screening of cargo embarking for US ports also exempts DPW from legal accountability in US courts. This seems to me the real, and so far mostly unaddressed, problem.

  3. CK: I’m not sure what you mean by a “secret agreement” requiring screening of cargo embarking for U.S. ports. UAE was the first Arab country to participate in a U.S. global trade security initiative whereby cargo destined for U.S. ports would be inspected at the UAE port of origin (in addition to the U.S. destination port). That’s why those supporting this deal contend that UAE is doing everything within its power to prove its devotion to anti-terror protocols & port security. BTW, security experts consider it much more effective to inspect cargo at its port of origin than its port of destination (I’m no security expert so I can’t tell you why).

    The initiative is not “secret.” It’s being talked about all over the media & blog world including here. Unless, you’re talking about some other “secret agreement.”

  4. Richard — You’re right, the agreement is no longer “secret” but was described in headlines that way when it first came to light. Among the provisions you describe, which seen to imply concerns for security beyond the typical, the agreement provides DPW with an unusual exemption from keeping business records on US soil where they could be subject to court orders in suits against the company.

    See: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/02/23/ap/politics/mainD8FUHG4G0.shtml

  5. Addendum to previous comment: This today from Matt Yglesias, with whom I frequently disagree, re: today Tom Friedman’s column on DPW makes sense to me:

    THE RACE CARD. Tom Friedman says skeptics of the UAE port deal are “borderline racist.” David Ignatius disagrees, saying we’re straight-up “racist.” I say bullshit. The argument being mounted is plainly contradictory. On the one hand, it’s supposed to be illegitimate to worry about this because we can’t discriminate between countries. On the other hand, it’s supposed to be illegitimate because the UAE is a loyal ally in the war on terror. But if the second is the reason we shouldn’t worry, then we can discriminate between countries after all. And of course we can discriminate between countries when it comes to matters of national security. That’s how national security is done.

    Freidman says in part:

    My point is simple: the world is drifting dangerously toward a widespread religious and sectarian cleavage — the likes of which we have not seen for a long, long time. The only country with the power to stem this toxic trend is America.

    People across the world still look to our example of pluralism, which is like no other. If we go Dark Ages, if we go down the road of pitchfork-wielding xenophobes, then the whole world will go Dark Ages.

    There is a poison loose today, and America — America at its best — is the only antidote. That’s why it is critical that we stand by our principles of free trade and welcome the world to do business in our land, as long as there is no security threat. If we start exporting fear instead of hope, we are going to import everyone else’s fears right back. That is not a world you want for your kids.

    Except for the tone of patriotic hubis, I agree with much of what Friedman says here. However “principles of free trade and [welcoming] the world to do business in our land” must not include abrogating the rule of law that has served to suture the cleavages Friedman fears. In many ways Free Trade agreements and the WTO are responsible for undermining secular law that has contributed to the xenophobic alarm Friedman sounds today..

  6. C: Thanks for those links. I think Ygleisias is full of crap himself. I couldn’t even follow what his arguement was.

    I’m glad to hear that Friedman weighed in on this. In order to turn the tide on this debate it is important that columnists, bloggers & media figures talk about it in print or on air.

    I don’t know much about why the agreement you mention included those provisions. I don’t know whether there was an ulterior (negative) motive involved though it’s certainly possible.

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