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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Ports Thing

In regard to the controversy going on now, about the plan to give a company from the United Arab Emirates the contract to manage a number of the U.S.'s most important ports, at a cost of 6.8 billion dollars, some erstwhile progressives have airily dismissed the fuss. One, a homeland security expert named Issikoff, who is a regular visitor to Rachel Maddow's radio program, called the objections "making a mountain out of a molehill." Another, the well-known pundit Eric Alterman, took the same stand while Sam Seder was hosting the Al Franken daytime show. They seemed to be saying that management and security of the ports are two separate matters and that it is the security that is lacking rather than the management and that is where our attention should be focused..

I was badly disappointed when Maddow and Seder made almost no effort to contest this point. I guess they were too grateful to have two luminaries such as these appearing on their programs to want to challenge them. At first Seder did seem to be on the verge of differing, but Alterman silenced him by curtly saying, "Let me finish," and continuing with a long discourse in which he spoke mostly of the continuing problem of security at the ports -- as if that hasn't already been brought up repeatedly, almost from the day after 9/11. I don't know if Seder was sold on Alterman's reasoning, but he never returned to the point.

I would think, however, that the two matters are not separate by a long shot or shoreman, and that security would be an integral part of management at places as crucial and as integral to the composition of a nation as its points of ingress and egrees. That is something on which I would think that the management would want to know every detail. At every step of the way management would also have inputs on the enterprise's ability to operate without delays or stoppages of any kind, like those that would be furnished by breaches of security.

Ports, whether they deal with arrivals and departures by sea or by air, are as essential to a nations's life and well-being as our mouths and anuses are to our persons, and we would never put those under the management of others, except in medical and dental emergencies (and, for some people, sexually) and then only for the shortest possible periods. And we certainly see the security of those organs, so essential to our lives and our well-being, as a matter purely of our own purview. Put another way, this deal is as illogical as would be having the opening and the closing of our house's doors and gates and the locking of them purely the responsibility of others.

I should have been alerted to all this by the second season of HBO's stellar series, "The Wire." That "longshoremen" or "white" season veered from the first season to deal with ports and containers at the Baltimore Harbor, instead of drugs in the inner city, as in the first and third years, and I thought that in several ways it was the most interesting of the Wire's episodes so far. Yet, on hearing of this Dubai deal, I was surprised to learn of how not only were these said ports now under British management, but also some our biggest airports were similarly run by foreign companies. I would've thought that such key places would be strictly under American management, just like our military bases and our power plants. So what else has been sold to the highest bidders overseas, by stealth?

It was already bad enough that, without our noticing, we had borrowed so much from the Chinese that now we are hip deep in debt to them -- Communist-controlled China, which once, in the early Cold War days, was as much of an anathema to the powers-that-be in this country as was the U.S.S.R., and which was seen largely as an impoverished fat boy. Now, nothing except things of an empty nature can be said to them because they hold so many of our I.O.U.'s, and presumably a huge chunk of American property along with it.


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