Friday, March 24, 2006

Our Ports Are Safe...

You couldn't invent this stuff. Honest, you couldn't.

About a month ago, everyone was all stirred up, because the British firm that managed about 6 U.S. ports was being bought out by Dubai Ports World, which is owned by the government of Dubai, which is an Ay-rab country. Congress and the media went ballistic, being embarrassingly racist, and leaving our Fearless Leader standing up saying (which was perfectly true), "But they're a very reputable company and they're our allies!" (I admit, that was amusing.)

OK, here we go again: today's AP wire has a reassuring story about the gummint's attempts to protect us from radioactive materials in shipping cargo. They're wrapping up a contract to put a sophisticated radiation detector in the Bahamas, 65 miles from Freeport. A no-bid contract. Which will allow the contract firm to run the equipment without the presence of U.S. customs officials. (Of course, the Bahamas isn't U.S. soil; but the whole purpose of this is to monitor cargo headed for the U.S.) And what doughty
red-white-and-blue American firm gets this contract?

Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. That doesn't sound very American - where is Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. headquartered? Well, in Beijing, in China. In fact, Hutchison Whampoa belongs to Li Ka-shing, who is China's richest man, and on very close terms with the Chinese government, and the senior officials of the Chinese Communist party. Like Dubai Ports World, this is a highly respected international ports operator. Of course, three years ago when Hutchison tried to buy part of Global Crossing Ltd., the administration blocked them on national security grounds. I guess the administration now figures it's all right to let them do this. Without soliciting bids.

How much of this do we have to see before we conclude that the present administration has no more idea how to manage national security than your front doorknob? The Democrats, I admit, have been acting like the gang that can't shoot straight; but can they possibly be worse than this??


  1. Anonymous5:50 PM

    My personal, cynical feeling on this is it has very little to zip to do with national security. Of course, a contract given to the lowest bidder is contracting for cheap whatever. In a capitalist society we expect to get what we pay for. So a no bid contract, in abstract theory, sounds good to my ears. I need this, quality level understood, and I am willing to pay for what it costs. Hmmm, the theory turns out to sound pretty thin when I apply it in actuallity. That is why many folks buy items at Tar-je instead of Dillards or Robinson-May or Bonwit Teller. So when it comes down to the gov-mint handing out no bid contracts, and this administration has done a noticably fair bit of this no bid contract awarding, well, I wax Shakesperian. Something is rotten in the state of D.C. (I know, D.C. isn't a state - literary effusion here.)I begin to think Tom Delay isn't the only person in a govermental branch who has been accepting money, gifts, and various tit-for-tats in exchange for some company getting a preddy nice no bid contract. Is it business as usual out there? If they aren't in each others' pockets, which I think the members of this administration are, they are definitely scooping tax dollars with one hand and handing them off to various business interests. Which business interests? Where? Ahhh, this gives a whole new meaning to the term Pocket Pets.

  2. You're right, of course, boggart. They are handing money around like M&Ms in Washington and related places, or, let's pass the REAL campaign finance reform - public funding of campaigns - Right Now.

    On the other hand, I will disagree with you on personal grounds when it comes to being willing to pay what it costs, at least in my personal life. I don't shop at Tar-jay because it's cheaper. Of course, I don't shop at Bonwit Teller or Dillards either, because this entire area has been eaten by Macy's which I can't stand, except for the Bloomie's in San Francisco where you can't park. But I stand by the principle that you get what you pay for, and if you want better than the plastic Made-in-China version, you pay more. I also shop at local stores whenever possible.

    The people who shop at Tar-jay or Wal-Mart because it's cheaper, however, are leading me up to another rant which will be posted later when it has ripened...

  3. Anonymous8:02 PM

    I'n not an expert, simply because I'm not a shop til you drop type. I tend to drop after making the list. Anyway, WalMart is something else. Have you seen the DVD on WalMart being distributed by I bought few things at the Wal to start with, although they usually had great buys on birdseed. (Liveing in a flyway means supporting the migrating and wintering flocks.)Also, you can buy so-called beauty and health products fairly inexpensively there. After seeing the video, and allowing for slant, rant, and agenda, I no longer shop at WalMart.

    Good ol' Tar-jay, on the other hand, appears to have some of the same items, and some items that are simply better quality for a still reasonable price. It appears a step up from the Wal or the Big K. I've heard little about K's dealings with their employees. (Now the K has a good sale on birdseed this week.)What I do know, is that Tar-jay employees, out here anyway, seem really loyal - even if they are part timers. They volunteer information as to where they work.

    So basically, I think, but am open to those with wider knowledge, that many people buy the best quality they can for the lowest price tag. That may mean waiting until items go on sale, or cutting coupons out of the paper. Governmentwise that used to mean putting contracts out to bid.

    What really seems to be happening, and I'm looking at my mailbox here, it a realio, trulio increase in catalogue shopping. The catalogues, which are as varied as anything else, seem to have increased their range of sizes, styles, and the number of sales they have a year. I'm assuming this is in response to an increased number of customers.

    Out here in the hinterlands, Robinson-May got eaten up by Macy's. Penny's and Sears keep keeping on, Mervyns seems to have a new sale at least once a week, and my mailbox overfloweth with catalogues I didn't ask for selling clothing I don't buy. Who is shopping at the box stores anyway? Is this really a nation of shopaholics? Well, not the government. They don't shop around. They buy from their friends.

  4. Now, I hate to shop. This is really why I don't go to Wal-Mart or Tar-jay, or even Macy's. I hate the crowds; I hate looking for a parking place. And frankly, all that abundance of Merchandise gives me a headache. Which is why I've been doing the bulk of my clothes shopping in catalogs/on the web for years.

    Your comment about the Tar-jay employees is really interesting, I wouldn't have expected that. I thought it was all hype; but if they're getting that from the people they hire, they must be doing something right.

  5. Anonymous8:56 PM

    At this point I doubt that anything this administration does has anything meaningful to do with actual national security and everything to do with elections and venal business deals. The level of corruption under the veil of "keeping America safe" has reached dizzying heights.

    Anonymous David

  6. I have to admit I really enjoyed Adam Felber's recent post, How I won the war. If you bring your personal threat level down to blue, it becomes clear that anonymous David is right. The whole business of "we'll keep you safe" is a scam to hide the fast footwork.

  7. Anonymous6:00 AM

    Tell me a respected journalist, doing real gum-shoe investigative work, is writing a book on what is really going on in our government and that it will be published before the next presidential election. This can't all be stupidity, mental defects, dyslexia, a youth spent blowing up frogs for fun, or mere graft. The scale and breadth of the incompetence is astounding. The billions of dollars in taxes we're paying for Homeland Security, and then the governmnet outsources something as critical as checking for radiation in cargo coming into our country, and pay $6 million in a no bid contract to a foreign entity. Unbelievable! I agree the scanning should be done away from our major ports and, if the Bahamas is a convenient place to do this - fine. But we need U.S. Customs or Homeland Security fingers on the alarm buttons - there, on site, not 800 miles away in Virginia. Write your representatives and let them know you're pissed. This is how our govenment used to respond to issues and perhaps it still works. That's my theory, anyway.

  8. Cooper, I agree completely, and I hope that journalist is at work, but I'm not holding my breath.

    As for what's behind all this, I'm torn. The old saying goes, never assume malice when incompetence is possible because it's so much more common. But this does seem to go beyond ordinary incompetence. There have been times in the country's history when the administration simply sold out for big dollars - the Harding administration comes to mind - and we may have another instance here. After all, how is PNAC going to fund their ambitious projects to change the world if not by selling off (out?) the government they now control? The U.S. is rated #17 on the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, behind Canada, New Zealand, and most of the EU and Scandinavia: seems to me we should be higher than that.

    I don't know if you have a job or not, but I do, and let me say, if I performed in my position as these people do in theirs, I'd be retired in very short order. Unfortunately we only get the chance to fire them every 4 years, and we missed in 2004.

  9. Anonymous1:21 PM

    This has to be something more than incompetence, although that is always the first likelihood. The Harding administration definitely comes to mind.

    Anonymous David