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Friday, March 10, 2006
Dubai Ports and “a United States Entity”
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:13 am

So, now the question becomes: what does it mean for Dubai Ports to transfer the contracts to a United States Entity?

Via the NewsHour: Dubai Ports Pledges to Transfer Ports to U.S. Entity

MARGARET WARNER So, Simon Romero, let me just — for our viewers, I will re-read the operative sentence, because there has been a lot of debate about what it means.

The — Senator Warner said, D.P. World will transfer fully the U.S. operations to a United States entity.

Now, does that sound like full divestiture of the U.S. portion of this deal?

SIMON ROMERO, The New York Times: Well, Margaret, it’s very hard to tell at this point, because, you know, there were reports earlier today that were saying that some private equity companies in the United States were interested in bidding for those U.S. assets.

But what — like you — exactly like the D.P. World statement says, they’re not saying that they are selling them. They are simply saying that they are transferring them. So, that could very well mean that they could create a legal entity that is based in the United States, that has American managers, and even an American board of directors, but could still be effectively controlled by — by Dubai.

It would seem to me that such a deal would be noticed in the current climate.

I will confess that when I heard the phrase “a United State entity” I figured it did not necessarily mean a US-owned company. The notion that DPW might try to still be indirectly involved did not occur to me.

And to my amusement (but then again, I didn’t get much sleep last night), Haliburton gets mentioned:

SIMON ROMERO

[…]

Halliburton, for example, has done something like this in Iran, where they operated for many years, up until recently. They simply operated those — those — you know, those Iranian operations out of an offshore entity. And that could be very well what — what the Dubai company is planning to do as well.

Filed under: US Politics, Global Politics, War on Terror | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Thursday, March 9, 2006
Retaliation from Dubai?
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 4:44 pm

Via The Hill: Dubai threat to hit back

Dubai is threatening retaliation against American strategic and commercial interests if Washington blocks its $6.8 billion takeover of operations at several U.S. ports.

[…]

A source close to the deal said members of Dubai’s royal family are furious at the hostility both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill have shown toward the deal.

“They’re saying, ‘All we’ve done for you guys, all our purchases, we’ll stop it, we’ll just yank it,’” the source said.

Retaliation from the emirate could come against lucrative deals with aircraft maker Boeing and by curtailing the docking of hundreds of American ships, including U.S. Navy ships, each year at its port in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the source added.

It is not clear how much of Dubai’s behind-the-scenes anger would be followed up by action, but Boeing has been made aware of the threat and is already reportedly lobbying to save the ports deal.

Some sort of response would not be surprising.

No doubt some of this is simple anger and frustration, not to mention politics. However, I still think that the foreign relations implications of the current over-reaction to Dubai Ports’ role in this situation by numerous members of congress could be quite negative.

h/t: Reader Chris V. via e-mail

Filed under: US Politics, Global Politics, War on Terror | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

All Things Beautiful linked with Dubai Ports, The Deal Is Dead
Ports Issue Becomes Moot
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 1:58 pm

Via WaPo: Dubai Port Company to Divest Itself of American Holdings

The United Arab Emirates company that was attempting to take over management operations at six U.S. ports announced today that it will divest itself of all American interests.

The announcement appears to head off a major confrontation that was brewing between Congress and the Bush administration over the controversial deal.

[…]

It was not immediately clear how the divesture would be handled or what U.S. company would take over the operation.

No doubt all the hysterical pols can now tell us that they saved us all from the Big Bad Dubai Ports Deal.

Filed under: US Politics, Global Politics, War on Terror | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Congressmen Reading Blogs
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:13 am

Right Wing News has a list of blogs read by nine members of Congress. Interesting to see, and falls in line with my main point in my Wal*Mart PR post from the other day.

Filed under: US Politics, Blogging | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
The Same Subject Continued
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:06 am

Writes James Joyner at OTB

The irony, though, is that Republicans and Democrats are uniting here to make political hay out of what was probably the right decision on part of the president, all in the name of port security. Yet, shamefully, neither the White House nor the Congress is actually doing anything about real security issues at our ports.

Indeed. Regular readers know that I have been critical of the President of late, and do think that he and the administration have handled the politics of this situation very poorly, but based on what information I have, it would seem that the President is on the right side of this. Further, I think that if this deal dies for the primary reason that Dubai is an Arab country, then there will be negative consequences for our relations with Arab states in general, and therefore could be a detriment to US security policy.

Also: since we should want to encourage increased economic ties with Arab states, so as to hopefully foster liberalization and overall improved relations, it would be a shame for this deal to die because of political posturing.

Filed under: US Politics, Global Politics, War on Terror | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Is It Time to Say “Lame Duck”?
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:44 am

Via the NYT: A Rebellion in the G.O.P. on Security, a Signature Issue

When the Reps start giving Bush difficulty on the security question, in an election year, it may be time to start speaking of hobbled water fowl.

Although it still seems to me to be rather reactionary on the part of many in congress to behave as they are just because the country in question is an Arab one.

Filed under: US Politics | Comments (5) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

Outside The Beltway | OTB linked with Defying Bush, House Panel Votes to Block Port Deal - New York Times
Wednesday, March 8, 2006
Rice to Meet With Morales
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:40 pm

Via Reuters: Rice to meet Bolivia’s Morales

“I have asked that the meeting deal fundamentally with economic matters,” Morales told reporters, saying it would take place this weekend in Chile, where both he and Rice are due to attend Michelle Bachelet’s inauguration as Chilean president.

Morales — who has called Rice ‘The Condoleezza’ — added that the agenda included preferential trade tariffs and global poverty-eradication goals. Bolivia is South America’s poorest nation and the United States is its top aid donor.

Along with fellow Andean countries, Bolivia receives preferential trade tariffs from the United States as long as it cooperates in the war on drug-trafficking. But that deal expires at the end of the year and Bolivia has not taken part in free-trade negotiations with Washington.

Filed under: US Politics, Global Politics, Latin America | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
More on Delay
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:24 am

From the Houston Chronicle: Troubles don’t hurt DeLay in 22nd District

DeLay won 62 percent of the vote in the 22nd Congressional District, which covers parts of Harris, Brazoria, Fort Bend and Galveston counties, according to the totals from 97 percent of precincts.

[…]

In second place with 30 percent of the vote was Tom Campbell, former general counsel for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Lawyer Mike Fjetland and former teacher and oil industry credit manager Pat Baig each took less than 5 percent.

62% is quite solid, although it is his worst showing since 1986:

• 1986-1994: Unopposed

• 1996: 80 percent of vote

• 1998: Unopposed

• 2000: 83 percent

• 2002: 80 percent

• 2004: Unopposed

Still, 62% is quite good, especially with multiple opponents, one of which was quite credible.

Filed under: US Politics, 2006 Elections | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Legislative Deal on NSA Situation
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:02 am

Via the NYT: G.O.P. Senators Say Accord Is Set on Wiretapping

The proposed legislation would create a seven-member “terrorist surveillance subcommittee” and require the administration to give it full access to the details of the program’s operations.

Ms. Snowe said the panel would start work on Wednesday, and called it “the beginning, not the end of the process.”

“We have to get the facts in order to weigh in,” she said. “We will do more if we learn there is more to do.”

The agreement would reinforce the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which was created in 1978 to issue special warrants for spying but was sidestepped by the administration. The measure would require the administration to seek a warrant from the court whenever possible.

If the administration elects not to do so after 45 days, the attorney general must certify that the surveillance is necessary to protect the country and explain to the subcommittee why the administration has not sought a warrant. The attorney general would be required to give an update to the subcommittee every 45 days.

[…]

The proposed bill would allow the president to authorize wiretapping without seeking a warrant for up to 45 days if the communication under surveillance involved someone suspected of being a member of or a collaborator with a specified list of terrorist groups and if at least one party to the conversation was outside the United States.

This strikes me, at first read anyway, as reasonable. As long as there is both adequate oversight of all such activities by courts and the Congress, this is acceptable.

I still would like to have seen a more thorough inquiry by the Congress as to what the White House is doing and why they think that they can.

However, there is something to this criticism:

But Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, compared the proposed bill to a doctor’s diagnosis of an unexamined patient.

“Congress doesn’t have that great a history in reforming programs it knows a lot about,” Mr. Wyden said. “Here Congress is trying to legislate in the dark.”

However, if the new sub-committee has full access, it will allow for the opportunity for legislative refinement if needed.

Filed under: US Politics, War on Terror | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
DeLay Wins Handily
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:24 am

Via the AP: DeLay Wins Texas Republican Primary

Here’s the link to the official totals.

Filed under: US Politics, 2006 Elections | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Tuesday, March 7, 2006
On the Mid-Term Elections and the Democratic Plan (or Lack Thereof…)
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:38 pm

James Joyner comments on a spate of stories (here, here and here) on the question Do the Democrats Have a Plan? and the issue of who has the upper hand in the November election.

Much is made (and James comments upon) the lead that Democrats have in the generic partisan preference poll question at the moment.

Of course, all that is well and good, but Matthew Shugart noted the other day the real question of significance in all of this:

“Would you like to see your representative in Congress be reelected in the next congressional election, or not?”

And the answer:

Yes 59%, No 28%

The same poll gave the Democrats a 9-point edge in the generic “which party do you prefer” question.

It is often forgotten, even by political analysts who should know better, that people tend to dislike congress, but love there own member of congress. As such, any poll that attempts to capture generic sentiments about congress should keep this fact in mind.

Filed under: US Politics, 2006 Elections | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

ProfessorBainbridge.com linked with How much trouble is the GOP in?
Monday, March 6, 2006
Line Item Veto?
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:48 am

Via ABC News: Bush to Propose Line-Item Veto Legislation

President Bush plans to send proposed legislation to Congress on Monday that would allow him to control spending by vetoing specific items in larger bills, a Bush administration official said.

This strikes me as a total non-starter. The Surpeme Court was pretty emphatic when it struck down the 1996 legislation that granted a line item veto and it is pretty clear that the only way to get one is to amend the constitution-and that is radically unlikley.

Here are some highlight from the June 26, 1998 edition of WaPo on the Court’s ruling:

In a 6 to 3 decision, the court held that the line-item veto law violates a constitutional requirement that legislation be passed by both houses of Congress and presented in its entirety to the president for signature or veto.

[…]

Unlike earlier laws giving the president discretionary spending authority, “this act gives the president the unilateral power to change the text of duly enacted statutes,” Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority.

Such line-item vetoes are “the functional equivalent of partial repeals of acts of Congress,” he said. But “there is no provision in the Constitution that authorizes the president to enact, to amend or to repeal statutes,” he added.

[…]

In his opinion, Stevens said Congress could alter the president’s role in determining the final text of a law only by constitutional amendment.

Even with the changes in the composition of the Court since that ruling, I don’t see that fact changing.

The dissenters in the case were Scalia, O’Connor and Breyer.

Filed under: US Politics, Courts/the Judiciary | Comments (5) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

A Stitch in Haste linked with What Part of "Unconstitutional" is Unclear?
Bush: Not Nixon II-Rather, Carter II?
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:31 am

VIa WaPo: What’s Behind Those Bad Poll Numbers

The problem for President Bush is a growing perception that he simply isn’t competent. That’s the story behind the polling numbers that have declined — bad week by bad week — since February 2005 when the president’s approval rating stood at a respectable 52 percent.

The predecessor whom Bush has begun to resemble isn’t, as many liberal Democrats seem to believe, Richard Nixon. It’s Jimmy Carter. Carter’s political demise began when the American people, including many Democrats, started to perceive him as in over his head in the Oval Office. That’s what may be happening now to Bush.

Competence is not a partisan issue.

I think that there is something to this thesis. Certainly there have been several major issues in the last year (less, really) that bring the competence question squarely on to the table:

  • The Harriet Miers Nomination
  • The Federal response to Katrina
  • Out of control spending by Congress
  • The handling of the ports situation
  • The current situation in Iraq

And some of these items are not just fodder for the opposition, but hit right at the base, to wit: Miers and spending. Further, it is hard to argue, even if one wishes to primarily blame state and local authorities, that the Katrina response by the feds was anything but sub-par. Certainly the Katrina response raised serious competence questions about the post-911 reorg of the elements of the federal government oriented toward disaster relief.

And when it comes to Iraq, the lack of planning and the seeming lack of clear direction, despite the initial bold vision, has been profoundly troubling. Certainly it has allowed those allies of the President who had been skeptical of the policy in the first place, to clearly state their view that the Iraq policy is failing or indeed, has failed (e.g., Will and Buckley).

As such, the Carter comparison has, for the moment (and perhaps longer), a certain resonance.

Filed under: US Politics | Comments (13) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Sunday, March 5, 2006
When Bells Come Home (Sorta)
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:04 pm

Via Reuters: AT&T agrees to buy BellSouth for $67 billion.

So SBC buys AT&T, which then acquires BellSouth. And, if memory serves, SBC also bought Pacific Bell a while back-so AT&T has gone from breakup to partial reconsolidation. Of course, telecom isn’t the same industry that it was in the 70s.

Still, interesting.

Filed under: The Economy | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
A Lack of Positive News?
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:29 pm

Said General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs on Meet the Press

I don’t think we’re getting the goodness out to the American people the way we should. Somehow we need to find a way to have balance in the amount of reporting that we’re able to get out. If you remember back when the war began, we had 24/7 coverage. Folks could watch television, they could read newspapers, they could read magazines, and they could put together their own opinion of what’s going on. Now the amount of coverage from the war zone is much less than it used to be, and understandably, the coverage, then, that comes out is the bombings and the things like that. People don’t get a chance to see or hear about all the good things that are happening.

There was a time that I was more receptive to the argument that there was an over-focus in the reporting on the negative, and an under-reporting of the positive. However, at this point such pronouncement out of the mouths of administration officials sounds empty and disingenuous.

For one thing, such a statement radically underplays the obvious fact of serious problems on the ground in Iraq. Secondly, if there truly is a surfeit of positive stories that are being ignored, it seems to me that the administration should be working harder to get them out. Yet, we have not seen such a move (indeed, this is a move that the administration has never undertaken), which leads me to believe that there really aren’t all of these obvious positive stories.

Indeed, I still think that we don’t get a full, in-depth picture of what is going on in Iraq. However, the notion that we simply aren’t getting the good news and hence are getting an artificially negative assessments regarding Iraq strikes me as a hollow one. It is clear that the situation is not where the administration thought it would be at this stage, and no amount of good news will change that fact.

Having lived in a place (Colombia) where press coverage paints a grimmer picture than what one lives on a daily basis, I am amenable to the notion that the news coverage paints a picture of greater chaos than is actually the case. However, there is also no doubt that life in Iraq is being disrupted by serious political violence-far more than is healthy for the institution building that need to take place in Iraq at this moment.

Filed under: Iraq, US Politics, Global Politics | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
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