Friday, February 17, 2006

Arrant Nonsense

Ho-hum, I think I'm going to have to unleash a rant that might end up with me being linked to by more right-wingers. Which I'll just have to suck up. But this controversy over the sale of P&O to DP World has exposed the fact that left-wing sites aren't averse to a spot of spin now and then. Here's the lead from Think Progress on the affair:

The Bush administration has outsourced the operation of six of the nation’s largest ports to a company owned by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a country with troubling ties to international terrorism.

Which was true several years ago, when P&O, a company located in the UK, a notorious haven for radical preachers, took over the operations of several US ports. An Arab company bought this British company which operates several US ports. It paid a great deal of money for it, much more than the cheerfully authoritarian but pro-US Singaporeans. The Bush administration didn't "outsource" anything to duplicitous Arabs, it declined to block the sale.

There are several bits of infrastructure which I think you should take a great deal of care in transfering - power plants, even some roads. Airports as well, although private operation of airports is limited to non-security functions. Ports don't even come close. Security and customs functions are largely government-run. What the controversy seems to centre on is the notion that the President should use specious national security grounds to prevent the the free operation of markets because the principals involved are foreign.

So, to the passive-agressive clowns at the Port Authority, and the blowhards in the House and Senate, we will ask you this. What exactly are you worried about? Atrios notes that it's important to avoid tinging this debate with racism. But it's hard not to get the idea that somehow the management of DP World is meant to somehow infiltrate the running of good American ports with crazed Islamists. I'd note, by the way, that any well-funded terrorist could probably undermine port security in a far more cost-effective fashion than buying the whole damn company.

But the "Victor Kiam of global Islamofascism" meme is taking on a strange tinge, a bipartisan hysteria uninformed by knowledge of neither the operations of ports nor the details of the transaction. You should note, by the way, that I don't try to claim that the UAE's is very pleasant government. But you need to establish a much better basis for interfering with their concessions than that.

[UPDATE: This explanation is a mite more cogent]


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