A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Any Port In A Storm, A Storm At Every Port

There is absolutely nothing at all inconsistent or surprising about the Bush administration unquestioningly turning over seaport management duties to Middle Eastern governments. Let's look first, courtesy of CNN, at where the pressure for it is coming from:

LOU DOBBS: Still ahead here, do you wonder why President Bush is insisting on pushing this port deal through? Well, we do, too, and we've taken a look into it. We'll have a special report -- a special report on what appears to be the Bush administration's special relationship with Dubai.

And Dubai has friends in high places on K Street. K Street lobbyists don't see anything wrong with helping push this $7 billion port deal through, even if it raises serious questions about national security....

The United Arab Emirates not only has friends in high places in government, it also has high-powered lobbying connections. This oil- rich nation has been lavishing hundreds of thousands of dollars on K Street, lobbying friends to push its point of view and its goals. One of those friends we found out today is none other than Senator Dole, former Senator Dole. Lisa Sylvester has the story.

LISA SYLVESTER: To deflate criticism, Dubai Ports World has gone on a hiring spree. The bipartisan lobbying firm headed by former congressman Tom Downey and Ray McGrath was hired last week. Senator Bob Dole and the lobbying firm he works for, Alston & Bird, also got a call. DPW, owned by a member of the United Arab Emirates, is pushing hard to keep Congress from blocking the deal...

But lobbying Congress is not new for the United Arab Emirates. The country has a team of U.S. lobbyists representing its interests. Records filed with the Department of Justices Foreign Registration Office show the UAE paid at least four lobbying firms more than $720,000 last year.

According to Senate disclosure records, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce spent at least $100,000 lobbying Capitol Hill in the first half of last year. But the heavy lobbying efforts could backfire. It's now drawing attention to the influence of foreign governments on U.S. policy. Senator John Kerry has written Treasury Secretary Snow asking for full disclosure of the lobbying efforts on behalf of DPW. Congressman Curt Weldon echoed the need to know more about how this deal was sealed...

One problem with foreign lobbying is the lack of transparency. Lobbyists representing foreign governments have to register with the Department of Justice, but the records are not easily obtained and the information included on those disclosure forms are usually very vague with government entities revealing as little as possible -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS: Imagine that, revealing as little as possible in Washington, D.C. I'm shocked. Lisa, thank you very much.

From the Battle of Tora Bora forward, the War On Terror has been a part-time job at the White House, pursued if and only if it does not interfere with other, more pressing, agendas of political power and corporate influence.

The most dangerous possible terrorist target--in terms of lives that could be lost in America--is any one of our chemical plants close to a major city, as most of them are. A simple truck bomb, like McVeigh's in Oklahoma City, could kill thousands if detonated at a plant making, say, anhydrous ammonia.

This has been brought up over and over in Congress, news programs of all sorts have repeatedly demonstrated that reporters can simply drive in the front gate of most plants without even being challenged, and there would be no reason why the White House couldn't take up the bully pulpit and get this fixed. Have you heard a peep out of them about it? You can ask the Chemical Manufacturer's lobby why.

The President has defiantly told us that he will order, if he has to, the screening of every phone call and e-mail in America, to identify people using words like "bomb" and "terror". So the NSA starts dilligently deviling after everybody who tells someone else, "Dat's da Bomb!"

But you will never hear a peep out of the White House about a surveilance measure that would destroy virtually every avenue that funded terrorist cells in this country but gold smuggling and halwala banking: make every electronic fund transaction completely transparent to Government scrutiny.

This has also been proposed since the very first days after 9/11, because the principle is obvious: terrorism costs money. Lots of it. Stop the money and you stop it. Even Bill Clinton suggested this long before 9/11. But it will never happen. Guess why, and guess who doesn't want it to happen. Besides the terrorists, of course.

Way back when, Charles Schumer made a very intelligent proposal to increase security in the Trucking Industry nationwide. And even the rabid wrong-wing blogger Michelle Malkin supported it. Heard much about it lately? And did you hear anything at all about it from the White House?

It's almost too embarrasing to mention, but we still have the longest virtually unguarded borders in the world. They have remained so now for about four and one half years, despite repeated calls to fix this from those in the President's own party who think fighting terror should be a full-time job.

Further, there is the scathing, and bi-partisan, Congressional criticism of the Department of Homeland Security's response to Katrina? Are we really ready to cope with someone blowing up one of those completely naked chemical plants?

I don't think so.

Finally, it is noteworthy that the President has openly threatened to use the veto power for the first time ever in his Presidency. He very badly wants this to happen. I'm as curious as anyone else about the details of why.

But I think I can guess the broad, overall, principle involved: money will go somewhere, to someone who badly wants it, in exchange for power and influence within the United States Government.

Some of the particulars are beginning to emerge, however, as Lou Dobbs and CNN once again reveal:

The oil-rich United Arab Emirates is a major investor in The Carlyle Group, the private equity investment firm where President Bush's father once served as senior adviser and is a who's who of former high-level government officials. Just last year, Dubai International Capital, a government-backed buyout firm, invested in an $8 billion Carlyle fund.

Another family connection, the president's brother, Neil Bush, has reportedly received funding for his educational software company from the UAE investors. A call to his company was not returned.

Then there is the cabinet connection. Treasury Secretary John Snow was chairman of railroad company CSX. After he left the company for the White House, CSX sold its international port operations to Dubai Ports World for more than a billion dollars. In Connecticut today, Snow told reporters he had no knowledge of that CSX sale. "I learned of this transaction probably the same way members of the Senate did, by reading about it in the newspapers."

Another administration connection, President Bush chose a Dubai Ports World executive to head the U.S. Maritime Administration. David Sanborn, the former director of Dubai Ports' European and Latin American operations, he was tapped just last month to lead the agency that oversees U.S. port operations.

It's simply squalid. A culture of corruption which is no longer even window dressed. At every turn lobbying with money buys power, access, favors for your friends, and the friends of your family, in turn making everybody in the ring more money.

The Public Be Dammed.