The Bronx Blogger

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Bronx Blogger Disagrees with President Bush

President Bush has come out strongly in defense of an unusual business deal.

A multinational corporation which is partly owned by an Arab country, the United Arab Emirates, is poised to take over a British company which manages port operations in five major American cities: New Orleans, Miami, Balitmore, Philadelphia, and New York. The name of the U.A.E. company is Dubai Ports World, and the name of the British company is Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. (also known as P&O).

What's unusual about the deal is that it would grant Middle-Eastern nationals intimate access to our ports at all levels, and run the risk of compromising our port security at five different, extremely vast port facilities. The security implications are mind-boggling.

I don't know the administration rationale for allowing this deal to proceed. I know what they, including the President himself, have said: "President Bush Defends Port Deal". But the administration's responses seem to leave a lot more questions unanswered than answered.

I don't expect the Bush administration to be able to answer all the questions here. We're talking about national security, and we can't announce to the whole world what our security procedures are. We cannot explain in great detail to the whole world why any particular arrangements at our ports should or shouldn't inspire confidence.

Nonetheless, I cannot bring myself to agree with the Wall Street Journal editorial board ("Ports of Politics, or How to sound like a hawk without being one"), that this is just a political controversy with no substantial grounds for concern.

It could be President Bush and the WSJ are right, at least to the extent that the benefits of this port deal outweigh the negatives. Perhaps the U.S. is receiving a lot more in return from this deal than is apparent to anyone who is not on the inside.

But I don't see it from where I sit.

For example, the Bush administration cites the fact that all port security arrangements are in the hands of federal agencies, and will remain in federal hands after Dubai Ports takes control of port management. I find this unpersuasive for the simple and obvious reason that we need to trust everyone involved, and not just the cops.

We need to trust as many people on the private end as possible. If transferring control of port management from British to U.A.E. hands means being able to trust only 80 to 90% of the private people instead of 95% of the private people, then that seems like a very bad deal to me. (I am of course, very ignorant about port security, and cannot justify any numbers or even any specific arguments. But I call them as I see them, and this is how, in my ignorance, that I see it.)

I hope that I am dead wrong about this, and President Bush is right. But I don't think that is likely. (And I'm somebody who really likes Harriet Miers, and who thought that she would have made an excellent Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court!)

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Scientists and Businessmen Are Inventing an Elevator to Outer Space

Here's a very interesting story about some late-breaking developments in the exciting efforts to develop a real-live space elevator:

Next floor for the space elevator

I was directed to this article by Rand Simberg's Transterrestrial Musings.

[That's it for this post -- no more to read.]

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