Thursday, March 09, 2006

Dubai Doo Be Doo...

Nothing is more conducive to peace of mind than not having any opinions at all.
--Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

Of course, that would make you a pretty shallow individual. Without an opinion, a passion, and inkling of likes and dislikes, agreement and disagreement, where would the octane come from that drives the world?

As predicted, a House Panel voted last night against the idea of Dubai Port World acquiring the operator of cargo terminals in six US ports. By 62-2, the House Appropriations Committee voted to bar DP World from holding leases or contracts at U.S. ports, crowing that the issue is one of national security. Pundits and commentators say the lopsided vote is proof three weeks of White House pressure to stunt opposition to the deal in Congress have not been successful.

It’s also proof that congressional understanding of the implications is apparently stunted.

First, DPW and P&O are merely agents…they’re companies that operate the cranes that load and unload sealed cargo containers. I would be no different than allowing El Al Airlines to operate a half dozen gates at D-FW or Bush Intercontinental airports.

What we are witnessing is the politicizing of a commercial issue, and if the Congress of the United States gets away with running half-cocked and half-educated about this deal, you must look over your shoulder, because it will be your turn next.

The thing about Congress is that during an election year, any issue, any topic is ripe for distortion, dis-information, and manipulation. This "port gate" tempest in a teapot is not about protecting you; it’s about protecting turf on capitol hill. It’s about getting elected for another two or six year term. It’s about access to power, and sometimes that power is mis-directed to other means.

Here’s where the story really gets ugly: the House panel attached the Ports language to a $91 billion piece of legislation they must pass that would fund hurricane recovery and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. What does loading and unloading container ships in Boston have to do with money for rebuilding New Orleans and Biloxi?
But that’s how the logic flows and the money goes in Washington.

Want more proof?

The Treasury Department is now withdrawing money from the civil service pension fund so they won't smack up against a $8.2 trillion national debt limit. Last month Treasury suspended investments in a retirement savings plan held by government employees.

Treasury Secretary John W. Snow is sucking money from the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund to keep from running afoul the statutory debt limit until Congress raises it. This smoke and mirrors gambit will provide the Treasury with several billion dollars for extra borrowing.

The fund had an estimated balance of about $655 billion at the start of the year, but Treasury can use only a small portion because of the statutes restricting the fund's use during "debt issuance suspension" periods.

The Civil Service "G Fund" has assets of about $65.3 billion, all of which are available for Treasury's use.

Now if your company or mine were to pull a stunt like that, we’d be drawn and quartered by our employees…and then be charged with fraud.

Seems there’s a trial going on in Houston this week of a couple of guys who pulled something similar—diverting money to other uses, lying about what’s in the kitty…that kind of thing. A crooked "E" comes to mind...will we next see a "crooked P?"

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