Archive: February 2006

Port Deal Pause Provides 'Chance to Calm Down'

Dubai Ports World yesterday issued a statement that's well worth a read. Here's the basic idea: with a view to addressing concerns regarding the original review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), DP World has today formally requested to be subject to a further CFIUS review. DPW also outlined some of the steps it would take to ensure American confidence in its operation of U.S. ports -- including keeping a U.S. citizen in the position of chief security officer -- and reiterated its promise to hold off on taking over the six ports until after the 45-day review. DPW executives are so confident that their company will not be found to pose any security threat that they have actually invited an investigation that CFIUS had previously deemed unnecessary. The Times of London wrote that "by delaying the implementation of its takeover, DP World has provided...

By Emily Messner | February 27, 2006; 2:15 PM ET | Comments (88)

Ports Deal Pros and Cons

So far, the strongest argument I've seen against the ports deal comes from Charles Krauthammer: ....as soon as the Dubai company takes over operations, it will necessarily become privy to information about security provisions at crucial U.S. ports. That would mean a transfer of information about our security operations -- and perhaps even worse, about the holes in our security operations -- to a company in an Arab state in which there might be employees who, for reasons of corruption or ideology, would pass this invaluable knowledge on to al Qaeda types. Certainly, we don't want anyone finding out about the holes in our security systems. But is blocking foreign investment the way to address that problem? Shouldn't we be fixing the holes? If your roof is leaking, you don't just stop letting people into your house -- you get the roof fixed. Besides, there might be employees in a...

By Emily Messner | February 24, 2006; 11:48 AM ET | Comments (278)

It's Already Outsource, U.S.A.

The right-wing Center for Security Policy, which opposes allowing Dubai Ports World to manage U.S. ports, says that "Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer have been quick to seize on this issue as an opportunity to burnish their national security credentials at the expense of President Bush and his party." Huh? At the expense of Bush, perhaps, but certainly not his whole party -- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist expressed his concerns fairly early on, and several other Republicans, including Governor Robert Ehrlich of Maryland, have also challenged the takeover. Schumer, however, has been a particular pain in the nose, for example saying that, "Just as we would not outsource military operations or law enforcement duties, we should be very careful before we outsource such sensitive homeland security duties." The senator appears not to have heard about the legions of private contractors supporting, for example, the Iraq effort. As...

By Emily Messner | February 23, 2006; 10:05 AM ET | Comments (158)

The Facts: Outsourcing Port Management

This paragraph from a New York Sun story pretty much sums up American reaction to the $6.8 billion purchase of a British company that would put the operations of six U.S. ports under the management of United Arab Emirates-based Dubai Ports World: "On its face, this looks like f-- insanity to me," the Republican minority leader of the City Council, James Oddo, told The New York Sun, though he said he was not familiar with the specifics of the deal. [emphasis mine] Sounds like knee-jerk xenophobia to me, and you can bet that's how it sounds in the Middle East, too. And, frankly, it's not fair. One can't assume that a country poses a security risk just because it has "Arab" in its name. Today's Washington Post editorial attempts to provide a bit of factual context. Here's the executive summary, in italics, with some extra facts after each item:...

By Emily Messner | February 22, 2006; 3:36 PM ET | Comments (104)

Not-So-Free Speech in Europe

For the last couple of months, European newspapers have been taking heat for publishing cartoons of Islam's Prophet Mohammed. The newspaper editors say it was making a statement against self censorship and in defense of freedom of speech. The rebellion against self-censorship is understandable. But free speech was never in question -- there was no danger that the newspapers would be sanctioned by their home governments for choosing to print the cartoons. Yet not all speech is equally free in Europe, and the conviction in Austria of British historian David Irving delivered a jarring reminder of that fact. The Austrian court sentenced Irving yesterday to three years in prison for making statements denying the reality of the Holocaust....

By Emily Messner | February 21, 2006; 10:43 AM ET | Comments (130)

Revisiting Hurricane Katrina

"A Failure of Initiative," the House report on Hurricane Katrina, is now available for public viewing -- all 379 pages of it, plus 141 pages of appendices. It's dense reading to say the least. For a summary of the findings, see page 16 of the PDF file. The report's conclusions start on page 359 of the PDF, and include this telling passage: We are left scratching our heads at the range of inefficiency and ineffectivness that characterized government behavior right before and after this storm. But passivity did the most damage. The failure of initiative cost lives, prolonged suffering, and left all Americans justifiably concerned our government is no better prepared to protect its people than it was before 9/11, even if we are. There's no question that there were massive failures at all levels of government in the handling of Katrina, but the report saves some of its harshest...

By Emily Messner | February 16, 2006; 12:38 PM ET | Comments (206)

Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word

Why do members of this administration seem to have so much difficulty owning up to mistakes? Why couldn't Vice President Dick Cheney have just said, publicly and immediately, how sorry he was for accidentally shooting Harry Whittington? Countless media outlets used the shooting as an outlet for all those bad puns and Bugs Bunny wisecracks they've been saving up.* The New York Post threw the English language to the wind for the sake of the joke: "The White House took heavy flak yesterday for waiting a vewwy, vewwy long time before revealing that wascally Vice President Dick Cheney had shot a fellow hunter." Of course, it wouldn't be quite so amusing if Whittington had been seriously injured. And it looks like that might be the case: Whittington suffered a minor heart attack as a result of some birdshot lodged in his heart. Over at Political Cortex, they were wondering as...

By Emily Messner | February 15, 2006; 9:22 AM ET | Comments (168)

The Administration and the Law

Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, has found himself back in the news over the last few days, thanks to reports like the National Journal's indicating that his defense against criminal charges will claim that Vice President Cheney and other senior Bush administration officials had encouraged and authorized him to share classified information. If that turns out to be the case, it suggests a tidy little double standard: the same administration that went ballistic at the leak of its spying program has a history of encouraging leaks of classified information. Such a contradiction wouldn't surprise those who have followed the warrantless surveillance controversy. Consider Bush's statement in 2004 that "a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so." Of course, it turned out that...

By Emily Messner | February 13, 2006; 8:16 AM ET | Comments (91)

Debaters Speak Out on Cartoons

Debater Chris Ford points to the hypocrisy of the response to the cartoons being directed at Europeans (and America and Israel, because let's face it, a flag burning is the Middle East just isn't a flag burning without an American and an Israeli flag.) Chris notes that the blogs Rantings of a Sandmonkey and Freedom for Egyptians provide scans of an Egyptian newspaper that published the Mohammed cartoons back in October and met with no violent protest. On the subject of whether Western newspapers should reprint the cartoons, your reasoned debate has demonstrated that there is no one right answer to that question. It's a valid decision to publish material that some find grossly offensive; it's also perfectly reasonable to refrain from gratuitously insulting a particular segment of the population. But fear of violent retaliation is not sufficient reason to keep potentially offensive material out of print; in fact, that...

By Emily Messner | February 10, 2006; 11:15 AM ET | Comments (157)

Should U.S. Media Reprint the Cartoons?

Jumping head first into the Mohammed cartoon controversy: First, for a good summary of how the whole cartoon mess started, read this story by Kevin Sullivan. It seems the big debate in the United States at the moment is over whether American newspapers should reprint the cartoons. But does it really matter, since you can easily find the cartoons on the Internet? (The Face of Muhammed blog has an image of the original newspaper page, and at cryptome.org, you'll find each of the cartoons at a readable size.) Some papers, including the Post, have covered controversial artwork in the past without actually showing the artwork itself. Remember the crucifix-in-urine uproar a decade and a half ago? Other papers have printed photos of art that could be deemed offensive by Christians while not publishing the controversial drawings of Mohammed. The New York Times today published a photo (page B8) of the...

By Emily Messner | February 8, 2006; 12:46 PM ET | Comments (268)

Democrats Talking Back

The week's news is piling up, but before we jump into the fray to debate the domestic surveillance hearings, etc., I'd like to take one more look back at the State of the Union, this time focusing on the Democratic response. First, must give credit where credit is due: The Democrats' Spanish language SOTU rebuttal by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa. It was wise for the Dems to recognize that there's a whole Spanish-speaking audience out there that might not otherwise be drawn into the national conversation on key issues like health care, immigration, taxes and war -- yet it's a conversation that directly impacts them. A blogger called Pinto Bean disagrees. What do you think, Debaters? Secondly, not so sure about the selection of Kaine. He's my governor now, and I think he was a fine choice. But I'm not so sure he was a fine choice to...

By Emily Messner | February 6, 2006; 11:27 PM ET | Comments (103)

A Long, Long War Away

Regret the Error provides a screen capture of a whopper from the Web site of Canadian broadcaster CTV, where an article describes one of the controversial cartoons of the prophet Mohammed as featuring a "Soviet star" and crescent. Obviously, the crescent and star combo found of the flags of many Muslim countries is not the same thing as the Communist hammer and sickle and its accompanying gold star. For the record, the mistake has been fixed in the original story, as was the right thing to do. But it's nonetheless a telling slip. Have we finally conflated the War on Terrorism with the Cold War in our collective subconscious?* Over time, a people tends to conflate its enemies. 1984 provided a perfect illustration of this, as Eurasia and Eastasia faded into one another (with plenty of assistance from the government, of course) for the citizens of Oceana, who were operating...

By Emily Messner | February 4, 2006; 1:47 PM ET | Comments (167)

Spending and the Leadership Vote

(13:59, 2/2/6) UPDATE: John Boehner is the new leader of the House GOP. What do you think, Debaters? A good choice by the Republican congressmen? In yesterday's Debate on the conspicuous absence of Hurricane Katrina in President Bush's State of the Union address, Debater Will made this observation: Another noteworthy word lacking in this speech was "deficit". I mention this as an unsexy issue that will probably go unnoticed, because it is not treated as a life or death issue (yet) though Katrina and Iraq are. So what is Congress doing about the problem? By a slim 216-214 vote Wednesday, the House moved to cut entitlement spending in ways that will hurt the poor, students who get college loans and more affluent seniors who need nursing home care. E.J. Dionne explains what is so wrong with this budget plan. Debater Cayambe, who argues that the president "has no credibility on...

By Emily Messner | February 2, 2006; 6:40 AM ET | Comments (141)

SOTU: Where's Katrina?

(I arrived home -- jetlagged and totally worn out -- just in time for the State of the Union address.) Has anyone noticed that the State of the Union is always "strong"? In 2004 and 2005, the state of the union was "confident and strong." In 2002, it had "never been stronger." In Clinton's 2000 SOTU, it was "the strongest it has ever been." See for yourself -- do a search for the word strong (it pops up several times) in the speeches for 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. (In 2001, Bush gave a "budget address.") Bush's State of the Union speech last night (view excerpts here) was considerably less ambitious than some of his previous efforts -- no Axis of Evil or Social Security overhaul here -- and quite a bit of it felt like a rebuttal to opponents and a rallying of the base. One thing...

By Emily Messner | February 1, 2006; 6:17 AM ET | Comments (150)

 

© 2006 The Washington Post Company