Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Port Noise Compliance

"Lepanto was the last major naval battle between Christendom and Islam. Cervantes was wounded at Lepanto."

I had a spare moment today and had to look up the United Arab Emirates on a map to see both where it was and if it even has a port.  It’s directly on the Persian Gulf and yes Dubai is a very significant, though recently dredged, deep water port.  It was one of those reminders to self that I don’t know much.  The fascinating thing about blogspace is that certain topics definitely light up the net and the takeover of 6 American ports by DP World, a company owned by the UAE is unquestionably one of them. Suddenly, there are all these experts on the history of the UAE, its history of links to the Taliban and relationship to Israel, the financing of terrorists, and the details of port security.  I was feeling that little urge to jump on the blogwagon here and the truth stared right back at me:  I don’t know much of anything about either the United Arab Emirates, except they could have picked a better name for their country (it sounds like they’re owned by Benetton) and until John Kerry started talking port security in 2004 I’d honestly never given it much thought.  

Well, there was Tom Clancy’s the Sum of All Fears which got turned into a pretty good movie with Ben Affleck and a bunch of neo-nazi South Africans.  I do remember something about a dirty bomb posing as a coke machine and getting into Baltimore Harbor.  I honestly have no idea if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that DP World runs our ports.  I do know that it’s a bad idea for me to pretend to be an instant expert.

What I do notice though is that no one seems to have paid much attention to the ports issue.  The president strongly defended the deal and then the very next day claimed not to have really known about it until the weekend (now that makes me feel a lot better).  I don’t think the country of origin of the port operator necessarily is that big a deal, but the simple fact is that a number of people have been saying for some time that there is no manpower between customs, the coast guard, etc. to inspect the thousands of containers that make it through US ports on any given day. I'm not sure that this has anything to do with who runs the port, but it has a lot to do with people finally having to think about what it means to "secure" a port and the fact that the administration has been openly cavalier about the issue ever since W didn't really refute his debate opponent but chose instead to go all whiny and say "Geez, this is really hard work keeping you guys safe."

I point out that a bunch of the pundits who are all excited about this UAE thing are some of the same people who insisted that W did fine in that debate or good enough.

  One could easily put a weapon of mass destruction on a ship and bring it into  the United States undetected.  Of course, they want to listen to all your phone calls and look at your e-mails, but as for checking for bombs and biological weapons in places where they might actually make it over here, don’t count on it.

The War on Terror amounts to the following.  We have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on flypaper in the Middle East.  You get inspected a bit more often while waiting for planes.  We all know what the Department of Homeland Security is, but no one knows what they actually do.  There are a bunch of people in Guantanomo, but most of them quite clearly aren’t terrorists at all.  We torture prisoners.  We pay for articles in Iraqi newspapers to share the good news about our efforts.

In the meantime, anything serious that has to do with actually making the United States more secure hasn’t happened at all.  I would bet that eighteen guys could still come to this country on faulty visas, enroll in flight schools, and do whatever.  You remember those simulations they ran around New Orleans pre-Katrina.  I bet if they ran some terrorist simulations, the result would depress all of us.

Perhaps this ship has already left port, so to speak, but the other thing that hits homeland for me is that while we're spending hundreds of billions of dollars in the name of "security", this is another sign that U.S. Companies aren't competitive in yet another field. There's no American company with the six billion dollars to buy these port operations. Other countries appear to be better at running ports than America. Since longshoremen remain one of the enduring images of America hard at work, I feel the same sense of sadness that I do when I buy cars these days.


Although the Cheney shooting incident in Corpus Delecti, Texas has begun to slip out of the news, I can’t seem to erase the little Dickruder video inside my head.  I’ve even thought about staging my own reenactment.  I figured I’d go to a baseball field since home to first or third is exactly thirty yards and take my airsoft gun since I don’t own a shotgun.  Big controversial incidents always seem to have lingering facts that bug me.  I still puzzle over the plane that flew into the Pentagon in 9/11.  Okay, I get why nothing could be done about the WTC planes, but nearly an hour passed before D.C.  and like port security there honestly really isn’t any air defense for the White House and the Pentagon?  

With this whole passing the buckshot thing, people have been making a big deal about the fourteen hour delay, but I’m stuck on the fact that he was shooting at a bird, but had to shoot perfectly level to hit a man in the face at thirty yards.  Shooting bear or rabbits sure, but how many birds fly at eye level and if you are aiming dead level with people around you…..well you get the picture. It makes me feel like Mr. Magoo has been serving as our vice president for the last 5 years.

I have to say, the one weird picture I still have is all those women in a hunting party.  Are there really that many middle-aged Republican women who hang out with other women’s husbands and spend the weekend shotgunning quail?  If Mrs. Chancelucky told me, “Dear, hope you don’t mind but I’m going hunting this three day weekend with the vice president.”

I’d be convinced that I’d slipped into some lost episode of the Twilight Zone.  Next she’d be dragging me to Infineon Raceway to watch NASCAR with her.  

Again in 9/11 no one seemed to be in a rush to make sure the W was rushed to safety.  This time, no one thinks it’s that important that the W knows that Uncle Dick shot someone.  I definitely believe the president when his people insist that he knew nothing about the port deal until last weekend if even then.  How is it that we keep hearing from this administration “trust us” or "we had to do sometohing or other in secret" and then when anything happens “they don’t know anything about it”?  The real WMD in America is ignorance, both the White House’s and ours.

I did have this weird dream last night.  First, W was running around telling everyone the ports deal is really no different from all that computer technology that Bill C supposedly let us sell to them Commnist Chineze. Then, I dreamt that Michael Chertoff resigned and the President made Harriet Miers head of the Department of Homeland Security.  If I remember correctly, she’s carried a gun in her purse for like thirty years and has never shot anyone in the face.  


Post a Comment

<< Home