Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Meme Rising

What does P & O Ports actually do? You can get a feel for their operations at the P & O Ports website and review actual operations of a specific freight handling operation here. Can you find any actual explanation of their function and purpose by reading this NYT piece? Is the term "port operations" defined at all in the piece? How about here, in this AP piece - any description of what "commercial port operations" entails? Now, here's a Reuter's report - "port operations" again.

So, three renowned news organizations have reported on a major story and provided you with a clear understanding of what is entailed in "port operations" to the point where you can speak or write with assurance concerning the potential security issues involved - right?

Substitute "freight terminal" every time "port operations" is used and realize that what is involved is simply providing the space and facilities to transfer freight from one carrier to another while facilitating the additional paperwork required per custom regulation and international banking rules. "Port operations" are on the same level as any freight transfer point at the Canadian or Mexican border. Or any air freight terminal receiving air freight from overseas. The reporters and media involved in this "story" are deliberately using terminology that implies control over the security of the actual port. P & O exercises no such authority nor will it ever have more responsiblity for security than do J. B. Hunt or Yellow Lines at their respective transfer hubs scattered all over the country. COSCO is a Chinese company which operates the maritime freight hub at the Port of Long Beach in California. Is their "control" of unloading and loading containers also a "security threat"?

Rosen and Lovelady must have trained the clowns who wrote these articles. The sad part is that the writers ultimate dependence upon P.T. Barnum's dictum concerning the frequency at which new customers are created appears completely justified. At least judging from the remarks made by the people whom we have elected to represent us at the greatest clown show on earth.

How much effort do you suppose it might take to bring five pounds of anthrax into the US? Would you spend $7B to do so?

UPDATE: Extra! Extra! An actual factual report has been found! Chuck caught this Christian Science Monitor piece that explains what P & O Ports really does. Google news reports over 1,700 articles written to date on the subject - this one may be written by the only reporter not trained at the Columbia School of Journalism.

If anyone finds another factual report - please mention it in comments and I'll update the post again.

[Updated by Seneca 13:40 Mountain: link to CSM story fixed.]


Charlie Martin said...

Rick, if you're willing to spend $7B to do it, you wouldn't need to do it by buying the port operations company. White powder, packaged in plastic --- there are people coming through Miami Int'l every day doing that, and for a helluva lot less than $7 billion.

In the mean time, the Coast Guard would still be handling the seaborne security, just as beofre, and the port Authority Police, or the equivalents, would still be handling the security on land. What changes is the owners of the British firm that owns the American operating company that has contracts with US stevedores and warehousemen.

I don't think this raises any particular risk.

But now I've got a question for you: who benefits from this furor?

Syl said...

Amen, Rick.

This Port Snort is ridiculous.

Syl said...


Rove will figure a way for this to hurt the Democrats once Malkin and Frtiz shut-the-hell-up.

Democratic pundits are saying this puts the Dems to the Right of Bush. Snort. All it does is show them as racist bigots. The UAE is an Arab muslim country--that's what all the fuss is about.

If Dems were serious about security they'd shoot straight instead of hitting allies in the crossfire.

terrye said...


To the right of Bush? Well there goes their base. In case they have not noticed as far as most of the Democratic base is concerned the only political figure to the right of Bush is Atila the Hun.

And Malkin is going to do the same thing here she did with Brown, Miers, and immigration: Go nuts.... speaking of unhinged sometimes she makes me nervous.

This deal was made back in November and now we are hearing about it days before it is to be closed? The Republicans saw the Dems going right and so they reflexively went righter and here we are with the House leader at odds with Bush. People are saying he is isolated. So what is new?

I bet most Americans did not know until now that the Brits even had that deal. Talk about stealth, where was the press when that first deal went down? I am sure most Aemricans thought we handled all this domestically. And now the Brits want to sell and we can not very well step in and kill their deal just because the company is owned by Arabs.

I heard Mara Liason on Fox going on about port security and I thought, now they care.

After years of liberals acting as if Bush was a fascist for even hinting that maybe just maybe there is a problem with Islamic terrorism that can not be dealt with in a court room all of a sudden they get hyper vigilant about the ports.

To be truthful I would prefer if the ports were completely controlled by Americans, but if they are going to allow foreign companies to be involved the government can not very well exclude all Arabs.

Rick Ballard said...


Cui bono?

Beats me, so far. As Syl says, Rove should be able to flip it. Calling them freight terminals would be a good start.

The Rep Congresscritters are looking a little (okay, a lot) stupid on this one. There is an election year fight for face time going on. Both Frist and Graham have some Oval Office delusions that have been insufficiently knocked down. There seems to be a fair amount of interbranch struggle going on. The Congresscritters always wants the Exec to come hat in hand and Bush doesn't do that very well.

I don't see a clear benefit at all in this - except for the mentioned meme development - Bush really doesn't care about security because he wouldn't allow the sale of our ports to A-rabs if he did.
The success of the meme depends entirely on not getting around to defining what the hell is being discussed - which means it will work just fine for the people who have to take the gum out of their mouths to go for a walk. IOW - the MSM's customer base.

Terrye - the ports are controlled by Americans - 100%. Unloading a container from a ship and dropping it on a trailer chassis doesn't involve the "control" of anything. The steamship line "controls" the container until the US customs broker issues the pickup ticket to the trucking company. The steamship company rents the space that the container occupies from the freight terminal. Nothing moves without US government approval of the B/L, the customs entry form, the ag inspection form, the certificate of origin and the custom brokers bond for duty owed. Does a customs inspector peak in every container? No, but if they catch any contraband in an inspected container then the custom broker catches hell, the shipping agent catches hell and the client to whom the goods are consigned achieves a level of misery that is truly memorable. Believe me, I know wherof I speak. I've had the pleasure of receiving undeclared gifts from vendors in containers before.

Peter UK said...

A brief history of the P & O Line

chuck said...


I would appreciate a summary of what *is* entailed by "port operations." I haven't a clue and perforce have kept my mount shut. So a bit less sarcasm and a bit more education would do wonders for my ignorance.


Rove doesn't have to do a thing, the MSM will jump overboard all by themselves. The tricky part will be getting the message out that they *have* jumped overboard.

What will be cute is that we will suddenly discover widespread anti-Arab prejudice among progressives. Seen that sort of thing before? The problem is, such prejudice is probably widespread and the words UAE and port operations is likely to send shivers down many persons backs. Speaking for myself, even though I know squat about the situation, it makes me feel nervous. I don't think I am unique in that regard: Instapundit, LGF, Malkin, and even Kos are all singing the same tune.

Peter UK said...

I hate to say this but it is a bit late to start worrying

Rick Ballard said...


If you click through the first site I linked you will reach this page. It's just a freight terminal with a lot of extra paperwork involved. A pier, a crane, trailers and tractors to tow them, a yard to park them in until they are picked up.

No control of maritime traffic and no duty to provide any more security than you would find at a Yellow Freight Lines hub in Salt Lake City. The biggest (I think) port operation is in Long Beach and is run by COSCO - Chinese owned. Just big logistics operations.

I suppose I could have gone further than my original link - perhaps I will in the future.

Rick Ballard said...

Biggest in the US - Hong Kong is much bigger.

terrye said...


Well most people are not experts on this stuff, that is why it makes them nervous.

I think a lot of the conservative pundits are unhappy because they feel this will cause more harm than good. Glenn, Malkin etc have other fish to fry, immigration, budget cuts etc and since Bush did not take a stronger stand against the cartoon rioters they feel he is looking a little soft here. I still do not know what else our government could have done about those riots. After all our papers did not print the cartoons. Other than the obligatory "violence will not settle anything and we should all respect each other's cultures" just what could we say when we have more than 130,000 men in Iraq? Muslims are wacko? yeah that would have helped.

I am sorry but I get tired of the nonstop roller coaster of loud mouth critics that just go from one crisis to another. As soon as Birdshotgate slowed down and the idiot demonstrators in the streets got boring, well it was time to move on and find something new to raise hell about.

But we have to get past this reflexive anti Arab reaction. I know it is hard, especially after the cartoon riots and Hamas winning an election... but we can not effectively fight terrorism if our only allies in the region are Israel and Pakistan.

I don't understand by what pretext Bush could kill this deal anyway. Is he just supposed to call the Brits and tell them they can't sell their company to Ahab the Arab the King of the Burning Sands?

Rick Ballard said...

"Well most people are not experts on this stuff, that is why it makes them nervous."

I know. That's why the focus of the post was on the crap job done by three major sources of "news". Aside from my personal experience I could have found the P & O website in five minutes, done the necessary research in another ten and inserted a paragragh defining what "port operations" involved. Port operations just has a different sound to it than freight terminal - and that's the "hook" of ignorance that the MSM looks for all the time.

"IAE purchases six freight terminals" just doesn't have the flare of "Arabs purchase control of six US ports". I agree with you completely concerning the racism concerning Arabs. We should only seek to actively kill those needing killing - and that's a government job.

terrye said...

AJ Strata has some interesting stuff on this. I just do not understand the hysterics. The Joint Chiefs of Staff vetted these people, that is how serious the government was about making sure this deal was not a threat to security. And who would you be more likely to take seriously? Shumer or Gonzales?

I just wonder at the timing and the level of fear. It smells bad.

I don't always agree with Bush, but I don't think he would do anything that he thought could enable terrorists.

Syl said...

Anyway, the UAE took Michael Jackson off our hands.

What's not to like? ;-)

terrye said...


I saw a pic of him the other day wearing a dress, and of course a veil.

Peter UK said...

An informative post by Dennis about the port management

David Thomson said...

There’s also some serious speculation that soon all incoming containers will be x-rayed. This means that it will be virtually impossible to sneak a WMD into the United States.

Rick Ballard said...


Any terrorist organization could place devices in as many cities as they wished at any time they wanted. The price for using such a device is the price paid by the Taliban, Saddam Hussein and soon the Iranians mullahs. Not to mention any number of Hamas "leaders".

We aren't seeing terrorist attacks because it ain't a paying proposition for the boys at the top any more. That and I'm willing to bet just about anything that there are a lot of Arab fellas whose names we will never know whose families keep wondering why they don't hear from them any more.

Charlie Martin said...

Rick, I think that your point is a very good one. While people talk about how Iraq "hsn't made us safer", the fact is that the US hasn't had any significant Middle East funded terror attacks (perhaps with the exception of the anthrax, on which I remain agnostic) while the UK, Turkey, Spain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, (and I'm missing some) all have.

I can't help but this that this is due to a very realistic view of what Bush would do. So far, the Talibs have proven that you can't expect to get by with open support, and Hussein has pretty well shown that pissing off Bush is a good way to end up geting your teeth examined on the cover of Newsweek.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

There's a lot of racism out there. It's endemic; it's part of life. It can't be stamped out. The interesting story to me here isn't that the legacy media are blathering propaganda instead of telling us information (though Rick did a nice sendup of this), and it isn't that an Arab company is taking over the ports, it's that a whole lot of folks who cannot under normal circumstances admit to any negative feelings toward Muslims are suddenly allowing their racism to show.

chuck said...

Here's a good article in the Christian Science Monitor. There are only two decent paper's in the US today, the WSJ and the CSM.

terrye said...


Tis true, but back in 1999 when Saint Bill was reigning we could allow COSCO to get a port contract in CA. It is not only racism, it is a particular kind of racism.

Who has been a better ally to the US, the UAE or China?

brylun said...

Rich Galen concurs.

Specter said...

I really think that I'd like out "leadership" to quietly ask questions so they understand what they are talking about before they step in fron of reporters and cameras. A solid briefing on what happened would be in order. And then if they decide to slow things down - so be it. But don't demand hearings and legislation before you know the story....

Knucklehead said...

I read through three full pages of local newspaper "coverage" of the port story including long articles by AP, Gannett, and "staff". Not a single one explained what port operations are or how port security is handled. Not at any level whatsoever, not even a cursory treatment. There was nothing in there but the terms of the deal, commentary by politicians of various stripes, including a bozo Dem congressman who equated the whole thing to Hurricane Katrina (or at least that's the snippet of quoting that was done).

They also mentioned that some of the states in which the six ports are located are looking to go to court to prevent the transfer of the contract. But there wasn't a single mention, not a word, about how the contract was let and what voiding it would entail.

It is not even worth the effort to link to the stories. One can go look at anything published from the MSM on this topic and be pretty much guaranteed that it will be content free despite large numbers of words, paragraphs, and column inches. But I cannot resist:

Here's the USA Today coverage (and they are possibly the most "informative" of the national papers anymore which is, in itself, sad commentary). Here's their "deep dive", UAE firm a player in industry increasingly run by foreigners. What this industry actually does gets not a word. The original article, of course, contains a link for the public to "vote" on what "we think". Think? How are we supposed to "think" about this beyond "sounds funky to me"?

Unfortunately this is not unusual. Newspapers are remarkably content free. The Big (aka Antique) Media keeps insisting that they have resources and professionalism (including intense training in the "science" of journalism) that cannot be matched by the blogosphere.

Well, apparently there's at least a shred of truth to that claim in the case of the Christian Science Monitor and Popular Mechanics. There is no evidence of it for any of the major news organizations either domestic or international.

What, exactly, do they teach in these intensive courses that allegedly qualify allegedly intelligent people as "journalists"? They sure aren't teaching them how to discover and transmit useful information. Or, perhaps they are and editorial staffs don't allow such information to reach the pages of their publications. My brats, in third grade, could discover and transmit more information on a few index cards than the MSM can in what they claim to be "full coverage".

Even when we want to use them to inform ourselves it is impossible to accomplish the task. Yeah, one has to dig hard into the "blogosphere" to find anything better but at least one can find better work there.

It really is a shame, and aggravating, how useless the Antique Media has become. There's a big story in that but they'll never cover it.

Knucklehead said...


Anyway, the UAE took Michael Jackson off our hands.

Eureka! There's the quid pro quo that we knew had to be in this deal somewhere.

UAE: "Hey, look, we want to do this P&O buyout thing in a coupla years. We'll let you vet this eighteen ways from Sunday until whoever you need to be satisfied is satisfied. And how 'bout we give you a couple big wig terror meisters - but your gotta keep that hushed to the big max - and some space for an Air Force base? Can you get on board with that."

Bush Admin: "Comeon, guys, you know this will raise political hell in the US. You gotta sweeten the deal a bit."

UAE: "How 'bout we toss in some info that might help you track who is financing these terror loons and some convenient places for some of your navy to operate out of?"

BA: "Idunno. I just don't think I can manage this under those terms. We're just not thinking far enough out of the box here..."

UAE: "We'll put Michael Jackson up in a luxury townhouse and not stone him to death for at least 10 years!"

BA: "Now we're cookin' wit gas! Done!"

Knucklehead said...

Eegads! CBS, of all MSM outlets, actually put In Defense of Dubai on their Against the Grain feature. (ht: Lorie Byrd at PoliPundit))

Charlie Martin said...

Knuck, if you don't put that dialogue comment up as a post, I'm gonna.

Peter UK said...

The WSJ is also in favour of the Port deal.

flenser said...


They also mentioned that some of the states in which the six ports are located are looking to go to court to prevent the transfer of the contract.

That's pretty hilarious, considering that it is the states themselves which outsourced this work in the first place. A point which nobody in the media ever seems to mention.

Syl said...


Tom Maguire links!