Friday, February 24, 2006

 

Yes, purchasing body armor has been difficult...

...but this is going too far!

"Raising" money indeed...

Paratroopers ready to jump on that grenade...

Trying to take the "broke" out of brokeback...

I thought you said BAWDY armor...

Feel free to leave your own in the comments section (risque, not crude, please)!

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"Angry Left"?

Moi?

Really? Just because of a teensy-weensy little joke at the expense of the Vice President (actually, Harry Whittington)?

Damn! That REALLY PISSES ME OFF!!!

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Dubya Dubai II

Well, at least someone pro-Dubai ports deal shows some political sense (or recognizes reality). Of course, it would be Dubai Ports World itself: The firm has voluntarily requested a delay on the takeover of the ports. This is one of those rare times when delay does not equal defeat. Indeed, a delay is the only chance that the administration has to try to save this deal by taking another crack at Congress and the public.

It's still going to be tough, in an election year, to get Congress to go along with this. But, at least the inflamed rhetoric coming from Republicans should subside.

In the meantime, while I've been strongly critical on this deal as a matter of process and political savvy (i.e. lack thereof on the part of the administration), I'm not sure how I feel about this as a matter of policy.

My invaluable reader ERA points me to this
interesting post that provides a great snapshot on how globalization impacts America's commercial byways in various forms.

From the AP via the Columbus Dispatch:
Indiana officials hope to sign a lease this spring with a Spanish-Australian partnership that would operate [I-90] for a profit for the next 75 years.
The company would keep all toll revenue. In return, it would be responsible for maintenance, improvements and other operating costs, and would pay the state $3.85 billion up front - money that would go toward other road and bridge projects.

[...]

Privately operated toll roads are slowly catching on in the United States after decades of popularity in Europe and, more recently, South America, Australia and other nations. The roads are attractive to investors because they offer long-term, stable revenue from tolls. Last year, Chicago became the first U.S. government entity to lease an existing tollway to private investors. The city turned over the 7.8-mile Chicago Skyway to the same Spanish-Australian consortium for 99 years in exchange for $1.83 billion.

By this fall, about 30 of the 5,244 miles of U.S. toll roads will be run by private operators - the Chicago Skyway, the Dulles Greenway in northern Virginia and the South BayExpressway, expected to open this fall near San Diego, said Patrick Jones,
executive director of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association.
As ERA adds:

We let foreigners control our road!!!!!!!!!!! The horror!!!!!! You know how much commerce goes over our roads!!!!

But, you know what? Our security hasn't been compromised by foreigners running our roads.
America needs to understand -- this is the price of victory. If we are going to bring more and more rogue nations into the community of civilized nations, we are going to have to recognize the right of other nations to engage in global commerce. Our nation is looking at total economic collapse if foreign investors begin believing they and their money is not wanted here. I'm sure this deal might not be good for the Longshoremen's Union, but it is good for America.

Unfortunately it is a political year and the Administration blew the free trade argument again.
I think ERA is right: On policy grounds, open markets and open investment "is the price of victory." However, the backlash the administration is facing is, politically, the price of an arrogant high-handed attitude across-the-board. On major issues, it has repeatedly taken the viewpoint that "Ideals and philosophy are all; process is nothing." The admininstration repeatedly demonstrate a disdain for any sense of partnership in matters involving civil liberties or foreign affairs.

This administration has told the courts to stay out of civil liberties matters and either ignored Congress (on, say, the FISA court) or
interpreted Congress' will for its own ends (asserting that the post-9/11 congressional resolution gives the president essentially unlimited, unilateral powers during "wartime").

After four years of telling Congress and the American people that the country is involved in "a different kind of war," why should the president and his advisers be suddenly surprised that people's elected representatives (for whatever reason) dismiss an argument that a deal involving America's ports should be casually approved because of sound economic reasons. That argument -- if put forward by a critic of the administration -- could have, at one time be categorized as being evidence of a "pre-9/11 mentality."

Add that to a White House that seems terminally unable to do the everyday basics of cooperating with Congress and you have a recipe for disaster.

The Dubai ports deal mess is the most obvious symptom from this growing dysfunctional relationship. As ERA suggests, free trade and foreign investment in the U.S. in general -- which is what has been propping up the economy over the last few years -- may be the most significant victim.

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

 

The New Bartlett's Quotations...

Interesting profile of Bruce Bartlett, the erstwhile think-tank conservative who paid a price for writing his beliefs.

His, ahem, "somewhat" critical book on the president, Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy, is out now.

Hat tip:
Kevin Drum

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You Say Hello, I Say...Dubai?

OK, I was wrong. "Dubai Ports World" is evidently Arabic for..."WTF????"

Let's get this straight: The United States federal government approves the managerial takeover of six American seaports by a firm owned by the United Arab Emirate of Dubai. After days of bipartisan outrage and calls for the deal to be scrapped -- or at least reviewed by Congress -- the president puts his foot down: The deal stays as is, or he vetoes any congressional legislation that upends it.

Then, when it becomes vitally clear that Congress isn't backing down, the White House changes tactics: Apparently, the
president wasn't completely aware of all the details on the arrangement -- until it was just about completed. Funny, the day before, he sounded like he knew what was going on.

Now, the AP reports that this was a most curious deal: Dubai made certain concessions involving cooperating with U.S. investigators to get the deal done. Par for the course,
this was a secret deal. Still, basic, run-of-the-mill paperwork that other countries would have had to complete was just waived:


[T]he papers show CFIUS did not require DP World to keep copies of business records on U.S. soil, where they would be subject to orders by American courts. Foreign telecommunications companies are usually required to store their business records in the United States.

The documents also say DP World must retain paperwork "in the normal course of business" but did not specify a time period or location where they need to be held, a decision that troubled outside experts who call such agreements routine

"There is a very serious question as to why the records are not going to be maintained on American soil subject to American jurisdiction," said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and a leading critic of the sale.
Ah, lovely, that would be one more thing that this administration has managed to (potentially) keep out of the hands of the American courts. Curiouser and curiouser.

While we're keeping track, let's not forget that there was another odd deviation from the regular course of business: Most arrangements of this sort are subject to a 45-day waiting period to fully review details. Yet this one was approved
in half that time.

To make matters even more interesting, this deal which has supposedly been certified as not a threat to national security and a good business deal to boot is championed by both Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Treasury Secretary John Snow.

That would be fine, except for two things: 1 )
"Mr. Rumsfeld said both he and Gen. Pace were unaware of the port-deal security issue until the weekend." Oh.

So, the head of the president's national security team only knew about this a few days ago.

And, the putative head of the president's economic team?
Not so good there either:


A senior White House official, who discussed internal strategy under the condition of anonymity, said Bush realizes that Republicans are dug in and that he may have to compromise. 'We are sensitive to the fact that people have taken firm positions,' the official said. But that effort was complicated by the disclosure that Bush and Treasury Secretary John W. Snow were unaware until this week about the purchase agreement and the administration's approval of the transaction last month.
Snow, whose department chairs the secretive executive branch panel that reviewed the proposed sale, told reporters in Torrington, Conn., that "I learned of this transaction probably the same way as members of the Senate did, by reading it in the newspapers."
Wonderful.

A deal with various secret aspects to it is made between the U.S. and a Middle Eastern country -- a deal that has serious national security implications, because of that nation's historical ties to al Qaeda. In the wake of outrage from members of both sides of the aisle, Americans are told that this is a vital deal that must go forward. Members of the president's Cabinet all come forward to say that the national security concerns have been met.

Yet, neither the President, the Secretary of Defense or the Secretary of the Treasury knew about the details until they became public in recent days.

Meanwhile, the press secretary says that this all part of the "normal review process."

WTF??? WTF? ???

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

 

"Bring It On"

On the ports deal, as The Post says in its lead editorial, George W. Bush has become, "At last: A uniter, not a divider."

Sure enough, the paper shares its shock that the President would use his first veto on any legislation blocking a Dubai-owned firm from taking management of six U.S. ports -- with the
New York Times editorial page and the New York Daily News editorial page! Talk about hitting the trifecta!

Bush has previously threatened a "first veto" on such other definably "conservative" principles as not fiddling with the Medicare prescription drug benefit -- or re-visiting the too-generous transportation bill.

Of the many disturbing aspects to this decision, perhaps the most is how much the administration's response truly does mirror that of its initial reaction to the Harriet Miers nomination: Ignore the substance of your critics concerns and
imply they are elitist/racist/sexist:

"And the message is, it's okay for a British company, but a Middle Eastern company -- maybe we ought not to deal the same way. It's a mixed message."

Oh, right. Right after 9/11. Muslims and Arabs in the United States were treated exactly the same as British Episcopalians.

Talk about a mixed message!

Amazing. But then again, maybe not so much.

Secondly, it is fascinating how much this administration -- given its concern over the public good and national security --
makes use of the word "private" to block any criticism that its actions should have some sort of congressional or media review:


First of all, this is a private transaction. But it -- according to law, the government is required to make sure this transaction does not, in any way, jeopardize the security f the country. And so people responsible in our government have reviewed this transaction.
First and foremost, it was a "private" transaction.

Last week, in his Fox News interview, Vice President Dick Cheney explained his decision not to notify the media until some 14 hours
after the accidental shootingof Harry Whittington, and even then, only with one local news outlet: "I thought that was the right call...I still do. I still think that the accuracy was enormously important. I had no press person with me.... I was there on a private weekend with friends on a private ranch."

It was a "private" weekend on a "private" ranch. Thus, information involving the very PUBLIC vice president of the United States was filtered out some 14 hours later -- by the ranch owner.

The right of the American public to know about a shooting involving a public servant doesn't enter the equation.

However, when critics raise the point that the privacy rights of American citizens could be infringed -- by the administration intentionally ignoring the FISA courts to approve wiretapping -- "national security" trumps everything!

So, the lesson appears to be: Default to "privacy" when it comes to an economic deal and an accident involving the vice president -- but push privacy concerns aside when it deals with the rights of Americans at large.

Something doesn't add up.

Oh, of course! The president didn't really
"know" about the deal until it was completed -- though that didn't stop him from making his pre-emptive declaration to the media aboard Air Force One on Tuesday.

It's never a good thing when a White House has to resort to the, "The president was "out of the loop" when this decision was made -- yet had no problem threatening his first veto in defending it.

Oh well, if the president wants to go down this road...bring it on.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

 

"Dubai Ports World" is Arabic for...

..."Harriet Miers".

Who knew?

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