Friday, February 24, 2006

Dubai Ports World Offers to "Postpone" Take over of US Ports.
Opposition Continues to Grow.

Last night, CNN reported, that Dubai Ports World will "postpone" its takeover of US ports on the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico. The deal, which was originals reported to effect 6 US port operations, has since been revealed to include 5 more on the East Coast and 10 in the Gulf region. This would encompass 21 ports ranging from Portland Maine on the East Coast, to Corpus Christi Texas in the Gulf. This latest revelation may only prove to increase pressure on the Bush administration to back off from this deal.

Since the facts behind this deal were brought to the attention of Congress and the general public, the Bush administration has tried to force the deal through. After a bi-partisan show of defiance by senior Chuck shimmer (D-NY), Congressman Peter King (R-NY) and numerous others from across the American political spectrum, the administration has refused to give an inch. When both Senate Majority Leader Bill first (R-ten) and House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill) threatened to propose legislation blocking the deal, the President fired back with the threat of his first Veto.

Protests have broken out across the country, and whispers of a march on the White House are beginning to peculate across the internet. Just last night, after the story of the postponement broke, I was surprised to find that a Republican, who's name I will withhold, had joined in on a discussion thread posted on a leading Democratic web community describing the ports deal as "the last straw". I've also heard that Unions are banding together to oppose the deal for fear that this is another administration attempt at union-busting. Protests are also being reported at the Philadelphia Port Authority, and the P&O operated Tioga Shipping Terminal.

In Newark New Jersey, Judge Jose Linares issued an order demanding that the Bush administration explain why they did not inform or supply documents to New Jersey state officials regarding the deal. He set a hearing for next Wednesday in U.S. District Court at which he noted that he would issue a preliminary injunction blocking the deal unless he is satisfied with their explanation.

According to Raw Story, Congressman John Conyers lead 11 Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee in submitting a letter to Bush administration officials demanding answers regarding administration officials conducted the CFIUS review process. They noted that they believe that under the “Byrd Amendment” [50 U.S.C. App. � 2170(b)] they were required to conduct a 45 day investigation into the deal. They also stated that they were “advised that deliberations of this matter involving the members of CFIUS were scant, confined to a single meeting”.

Although support for the deal, and the President for that matter, is fading fast around the country, his administration seems to be in lock step behind this deal. President Bush was quoted as saying “I think it sends a terrible signal to friends around the world that it's OK for a company from one country to manage the port, but not a country that plays by the rules and has got a good track record from another part of the world and can't manage the port.” Administration officials have followed suit, and gone further by suggesting that, “there are mixed signals that could be sent from our country if we make decisions [regarding the port deal] not based upon the fact or whether a company is playing by the rules, but solely based upon where they're from”.

Strangely enough, top cabinet officials across the board including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Secretary of State Condi Rice, and even the President himself, proclaimed that they knew nothing about the deal until the public outcry hit the press. This assertion, especially from the White House strains credibility considering the revelation that the White House had a secret deal with Dubai Ports World, and since it is currently coming to light that the President was informed by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card as early as February 17th.

(Update: Scott McClellan stated that CoS Card informed Bush on Feb 16th. Reuters, though this seems implausable in light of the secret White House deal).

One more question lingers in my mind. Is the resignation of Department of Transportation Inspector General Kenneth Mead on January 23rd in any way related to this deal? We all know that administration officials who voice their opposition seem to find the door quite after their defection from the party line.

Then we come to the quid-pro-quo of the day. Two new revelations have come to light recently. First, the UAE gave the Bush administration $100 million in the weeks leading up to the ports deal, allegedly meant to go to Katrina victims. And then there is the $1 million donation from the UAE to the Bush Presidential Library.

As the pressure builds, two questions come to mind. First, is the deal on the way out? And second, Is the President on the way out?

(Updated Feb. 25th)


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