The Port Thing, Continued

Julia of Sisyphus Shrugged presents evidence that Treasury Secretary John Snow stands to make a great deal of money in the Dubai port deal (why am I not surprised?).

More on the port deal, from an editorial in today’s New York Times:

The Bush administration has followed a disturbing pattern in its approach to the war on terror. It has been perpetually willing to sacrifice individual rights in favor of security. But it has been loath to do the same thing when it comes to business interests. It has not imposed reasonable safety requirements on chemical plants, one of the nation’s greatest points of vulnerability, or on the transport of toxic materials. The ports deal is another decision that has made the corporations involved happy, and has made ordinary Americans worry about whether they are being adequately protected.

It is no secret that this administration has pursued an aggressive antiregulatory agenda, and it has elevated corporate leaders to its highest positions. Treasury Secretary John Snow, whose department convened the panel that approved the ports deal, came to government after serving as the chief executive of the CSX Corporation, which was a major port operator when he worked there. (After he left, CSX sold its port operations to Dubai Ports World.)

At the Washington Post, Harold Meyerson points out that allowing our ports to be run by a foreign government are just part of a pattern:

We’re selling our harbors to an Arab government. Our biggest Internet companies are complicit in the Chinese government’s censorship of information and suppression of dissidents. Welcome to American capitalism in the age of globalization.

Here the market rules. National security and freedom of speech are all well and good, but they are distinctly secondary concerns when they bump up against our highest national purpose, which is maximizing shareholder value.

Ooo, first-rate snark, Mr. Meyerson. You’d make a good blogger.

At Huffington Post, David Sirota writes,

The harsh reaction from the Bush administration to the proposal to rescind the deal should be a red flag. This administration is unquestionably the most corporate-controlled administration in recent history, meaning its reactions are usually tied directly to the reactions of Corporate America. And the fact that the White House is ignoring its own security experts and reacting so negatively to Congress’s opposition to the deal means this cuts to the much deeper issue of global trade policy – an issue that trumps all others for Big Money interests, even post-9/11 security.

In a previous post, I noted how the Bush administration is simultaneously negotiating a “free” trade agreement with the UAE – the country tied to the terrorists who attacked America on 9/11. The administration was negotiating this deal at the very same time it tried to quietly slip this port security deal under the radar. It’s not surprising few in the media or the political system have mentioned that simple fact – as I note in my upcoming book Hostile Takeover, the political/media Establishment’s devotion to “free” trade orthodoxy is well documented, and the Establishment’s desire in this current scandal to make sure a discussion of trade policy never happens is obvious.

Sirota quotes Michael Chertoff, among others: “We have to balance the paramount urgency of security against the fact that we still want to have a robust global trading system.” This is the bleeping Homeland Security Director saying this. Technically he may be right, but Chertoff is supposed to be focused on the security end of the equation. The fact that he’s defending the UAE deal and lecturing us about the global trading system shows us where the Bush Administration’s priorities lie. And they don’t lie with We, the People.

And so any attempt to stop the UAE port security deal fundamentally threatens the Tom-Friedman-style “free” trade orthodoxy that says we must eliminate all barriers to trade – even those that protect national security. When you realize that, President Bush’s threat to use the first veto of his presidency on the UAE port security issue suddenly becomes not so surprising. He is proudly defending what Jeff Faux calls “The Party of Davos” or John Perkins calls the “corporatocracy” – that is, the multinational interests who have bankrolled Bush’s entire political career, and who desperately rely on the American government preserving a “free” trade system that subverts all other concerns to the corporate profit motive.

Let’s go back to the Harold Meyerson column. Once upon a time, writes Meyerson, there really was such a thing as corporate responsibility. This existed back in the day when the (mostly unionized) labor force remained within U.S. borders. But no more. And other nations designate certain industries as being too sensitive or strategic to outsource to other countries or sell to foreign interests. But not the U.S.

And, increasingly, the “interests” of financial institutions and corporations have become the “nation’s” (i.e., government’s) interests. They’re the ones creating the nation’s wealth. But since more and more high-paying jobs are going overseas, that wealth is staying in the pockets of corporate top management and shareholders.

Further, since labor is being outsourced to countries with repressive governments, like China, it can be said that corporations are profiting from the suppression of rights.

After all, when American business goes to China to have a machine built or a shirt stitched or some research undertaken, it is in no small reason because the labor is dirt-cheap. This is partly the result of the nation’s history of poverty and partly the result of repressive state policy that views all efforts at worker organization — as it views all efforts at establishing autonomous centers of power — as criminal. Were the current labor strife in China to escalate, were the nation plunged into turmoil in an effort to create a more pluralistic society with actual rights for workers, what would the attitudes of the U.S. corporations in China be? Would Wal-Mart, which does more business with China than any other corporation, object if the Chinese government staged another Tiananmen-style crackdown? Would other American businesses? Would the current or a future administration levy any sanctions against China? Given the growing level of integration of the Chinese economy and ours, could it even afford to?

Put another way, we are all compromised by the way our corporations are making their profits. Meyerson continues,

To the extent that American business or our government even attempt to square this circle, the argument they most frequently adduce is that modernity — that is, the integration of a nation into the global economy — will transform that nation into a more pluralistic democracy. China, however, is determined to manage its integration on its own repressive terms. And, more broadly, modernity hasn’t always guaranteed the flourishing of democratic pluralism — a lesson you might think we’d learned after that nastiness with Germany in the middle of the past century.

Indeed, at the heart of the Bush administration’s theory of democratic transformation, we find two non sequiturs: that integration into the global marketplace leads to democratic pluralism, and that elections lead to democratic pluralism. Yet China and the Arab nations of the Middle East tend to refute, not confirm, these theories. Elections and economic integration are both good in themselves, of course, but absent a thriving civil society, they offer no guarantee of the kinds of transformation that these nations sorely need.

But outsourcing and other business practices may be compromising us. I have argued that much of our middle-class standard of living is being floated on the economy and policies of the past.

… a lot of us are still benefiting from The Way America Used to Be Before Reagan. Boomers like me are still benefiting from the fact that our fathers got free educations on the GI Bill and our newlywed parents got cheap housing and cut-rate mortgages from other government programs, for example. Our parents’ prosperity got us off to a good start and put us on the road to security, equity, and stock portfolios. In a very real sense, many of us today are living better lives because government in the 1940s and 1950s effectively responded to the needs of citizens.

But those days are long gone, and their effects are running out of steam. Many generations of Americans were more affluent than their parents. I think perhaps that pattern is about to be broken.

Well, I’ve wandered a bit afar from the UAE takeover of ports. I note there are some smart people here and there arguing that the deal wouldn’t really compromise port security. Maybe, maybe not. Even so, this episode is symptomatic of much that is wrong with our government today.

21 thoughts on “The Port Thing, Continued

  1. The pattern has been broken for a long time. Education is a guarantee of nothing. Business gurantees nothing. Pension , what’s that? We are being dismantled brick by brick and sold on the international market. We will be enslaved one way or another because we have lost our economic independence. While china may become more capitalist, it is a tyrannical dictatorship and while we may give them some western influence they are speading the influence of control and tyranny. Works both ways. Just like we used to separate religion and politics and now we are becoming more like the middle east where the unelected mullahs wield great power over the government. My parents had it better than I have had and they had a government that did not trade with tyrannies Russian or Chinese, that regulated business, maintained a border and kept some businesses here as a matter of national security. The corporatocray has sold us all out. Big news.We have no place at the table and there is no dicussion what if there was. We have no power to make the the decisions. They are counting on us being uninformed.

  2. k – great comment!

    Another law broken – there was not a 45-day wait period as required. This was pushed through too quickly and our asshole President threatens to veto if the port deal is cancelled with UAE firm.

    Also, I saw a female on CNN speaking from The Middle East accusing Americans who are complaining about the contract as being “racist”.

  3. It will soon become apparent that the time to reinstate those programs is now and they will be instated when the masses notice what is happening.

  4. I didn’t realize this until this morning’s NY Times story:

    “The administration’s review of the deal was conducted by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a body that was created in 1975 to review foreign investments in the country that could affect national security. Under that review, officials from the Defense, State, Commerce and Transportation Departments, along with the National Security Council and other agencies, were charged with raising questions and passing judgment. They found no problems to warrant the next stage of review, a 45-day investigation with results reported to the president for a final decision.

    However, a 1993 amendment to the law stipulates that such an investigation is mandatory when the acquiring company is controlled by or acting on behalf of a foreign government. Administration officials said they conducted additional inquires because of the ties to the United Arab Emirates, but they could not say why a 45-day investigation did not occur.”

    So this is not just a case of bad judgment, profit over security, etc, but another case where the Amdinistration circumvented (OK, broke) the law. Jeesh, these guys are unbelievable….

  5. Remember – this is a democracy where corporations are “people” – one dollar , one vote.

  6. Today on Washington Journal on C-SPAN, a caller from FL on the Republican line called to say that the objections are based on “racism”.

    Last week, the word used by the Republican Mean Machine was “peppered”. This week, it’s “racist”. A woman from The Middle East was on CNN yesterday saying that Americans who are complaining about the contract are “racist”. The caller from FL this morning used the word “racist” and “racism”. Hence, my conclusion that “racist” is the word of the week.

    In a separate matter, I saw a ticker-style news strip on C-SPAN that reported that the Bush Admin. is saying that media people who release “classified” information can be charged with espionage.

  7. Our wacko Prez is now on C-SPAN talking about his upcoming trip to India and Pakistan next week. He is talking to The Asian Society. Of course, he had to use the buzz word “safer” as he said one of the goals next week will be to talk to both countries about how “to make our world safer”. I should correct myself and say that he is “reading” as we all know that he can’t just “talk”. The man must always have a script to stay “on task”.

  8. The Bush administration may actually convince me that “free trade” is bad. In any event, I am with the NYT on this one. Bush takes away our civil liberties claiming it is necessary to fight terrorism without any basis to back it up and yet is prepared to turn our ports over to a country with well established terrorist ties without a full fledged and transparant investigation concerning whether this impacts security. It has nothing to do with racism or xenophobia and everything to do with the way this administration uses a double standard to screw the citizens of this country while helping out his corporate pals.

  9. This dog(America) has been dicked..and it most likely never be the same animal again no matter who is running the show.

  10. Rick – comment no 10. I fear the same as you do about our country. Bush is a prostitute and the body that he is selling is our country.

    I’m listening to him “read” still on C-SPAN about his trip next week. Most of the words he uses are fairly simple. His speech writers should remember to not use “feel free” next to each other in a sentence. He got a little tongue-tied on that one.

    I don’t think that he will be eating any beef in India as he does in TX.

  11. Barbara,
    What international blogs or columnists would you recommend to get a more well-rounded idea of our international actions?

  12. Since we have the topic raised(how odd, yet again) of Bushco helping out corporate connections I want to raise the wiretapping issue again to say that I believe that some of the taps generated may have been in the corporate espionage vein more than the political one…

  13. Digby noted that nobody understands why Bush committed this snafu. Here’s a suggestion I saw on another blog.

    Bush’s survival depends on maintaining control of Congress in 2006. His and the Republican Party’s survival generally. If the Democrats win a chamber of Congress, the investigations will pulverize Bush and the GOP.

    This issue allows Congressional Republicans to stand up to Bush on an issue that is red meat to their base, and that really doesn’t matter anyway. Further investigation will likely show (or at least will purportedly show) that the ports deal is not really much of a breach of security. Heck, if 98% of cargo containers enter without inspection, security is pretty lax anyway.

    So the Republican Congressmen get to show spine and principle while distancing themselves from Bush. This is going to be key for them in the coming elections, since Bushco is increasingly radioactive and Iraq is sliding deeper into civil war.

    The Republicans absolutely have to maintain control of Congress in 2006 or a lot of Bush people are going to prison.

  14. The overt issue is anti-terrorism, but that as usual is bogus; the hidden issue is economic nationalism. This issue is part of the outsourcing debate. Shall we, as nationalists, say that some parts of our nation must be owned only by citizens? Or shall we, as globalists, say that borders are a thing of the past? (I have some guarded sympathy for both points of view; nationalism is obviously an abomination, but so is globalism.)

    The anti-terror angle is bogus because our corporate misrulers aren’t really that concerned with the threat of terror. (This has been shown time and again, most notoriously with the Iraq war; and the port issue certainly counts too.) They are not concerned because it is not, to them, a real threat. Yes, terrorists can inflict spectacular local damage, but that can be cleaned up and life moves on. A bug can bite a lion but the bug remains a bug and the lion remains a lion. It’s unpleasant but doable; what’s more the powerful can profit from fear of an invisible enemy.

    So bin Laden is not, to them, a real problem. The real problems, for them and for the rest of us, remain the same; money and power. What is there to go around, and who gets what? In that sense 9/11 changed nothing.

    It makes perfect sense for us to point to scary Arab corporations running sensitive entry points; and we are perfectly right to say that the Bush cult is not keeping us safe. But if you do this, then remember that the real threat is economic; the looting of the nation and the hollowing-out of the middle class. The trouble with the Arab corporations is not that they’re _Arab_, it’s that they’re _corporations_!

  15. I am just struck by how cowardly are the real die-hard Bush supporters…..curling up in their groupie groping-for-each-other fetal positions, ready to give over their personal liberties, ready to betray [the financial future of] their own kids and grandkids, ready to relinquish control of national economic segments such as our ports……so terrified of life without some imagined ‘strong daddie leader’ ………

    Yes, paradoctor above is correct that the ‘fear of terrorism’ is a corporately choreographed ‘movie’ designed to help the corporate global raiders [Bush’s true cohorts] control whole masses of people.

    Still, it is just disgusting to watch the level to which Bush cultists have sunken,……….. twisting logic and themselves because they are like little kids….. ‘scared of the movie’.

  16. Okay lets start listing Bush’s impeachable offense articles:
    1. using non-country (English) intelligence to determine our war decision in Iraq
    2. systematic torture of Iraq prisoners of war in Abu Ghraib,
    3. systematic torture of Gitmo prisoners of war, with no charges and no legal hearings or attorneys,
    4. Voter fraud in Ohio in 2004 with the Diebold hackable paperless machines,
    5. warrantless wiretapping in violation of FISA,
    6. failure to conduct the port 45 day investigation, and
    7. other counts to be listed later.

    Frankh99 in Miami contributed to the report

  17. Frank – 4 on your list really pissed me off. I was reared in Ohio in Cincinnati-Dayton corridor and my family is still there. The damn Secretary of State there will do anything for the Republican cause.

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