9 March 2006

Politicking, Postulation, and Posterior Preservation

We're in Baltimore, Maryland attending a conference, and still reeling over the 5 day fiasco surrounding our lost luggage. Somewhere in Germany are 4 pieces of our gear - 2 suitcases of clothing and 2 large wheelie cases of exhibition signage that we desperately need for next week's show in New York. Despite our best efforts to have the baggage directed to our NY hotel address, someone in Germany has decided to over-ride the computer information and send our baggage via Washington and Denver, and then maybe to NY! Right now, we have no idea where it is.

It's bureaucracy at its finest.

We're also being treated to a shining example of democracy.

In every taxi that we ride in, the radio talk shows are full of the DP World ports deal. It's the same rehashed, mostly inaccurate info time and time again, with the more educated callers being shouted down, or given less airtime because voices of reason do not qualify as good entertainment.

The TV news shows are also carrying a lot of reports on the same subject. Today, it's all about the
House of Appropriations Committee which has resoundingly voted 62-2 to block the ports deal, as this CNN article reports.

The CNN article goes on to say that despite this outcome, there are still plans on Capitol Hill to save the ports deal, including the final decision that can be taken by President Bush - the power of veto.

It says a lot for the members of Congress that they have voted in this way.

Think about it.

It's election year.

The majority of their electoral constituents are people who believe that America should be owned by Americans - not realising that it hasn't been this way for a long time with major shipping ports, airports and companies all under foreign control.

A vote against the ports deal by their congressional representative looks good to the voting public, so they'll vote for him/her again.

Where does this leave the ports deal?

It will go ahead. If it gets to the final hurdle, Bush will veto the opposition and allow the deal to happen. He has nothing to lose - he's coming to the end of his tenure.

That's why the members of Congress are leaving it to him to make the decision.

It's the Republican Democratic way!

Now - where's our luggage?

UPDATE: It now appears that DP World will transfer the US port management to a "US Entity" - see this CNN report for more details.

In my opinion, it's a wise move. In an earlier post, I pondered on why DP World would want to assume responsibility for the ports, knowing that if security was breached in any way, that it and the Islam/Muslim world would be blamed for it - regardless of who was in charge of security.

As a representative from the Ports Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) rightly pointed out on US TV just now, they are very careful about any comments they make on this situation because the PANYNJ also operates foreign ports, and they empathise with DP World - they know how situations can go wrong.

It's also with deep shame that it has to happen in this way, as the decision will now appear to be a backdown by DP World.

Those who opposed the deal will now claim victory, and misguided righteousness will prevail over the lost opportunity to bring the West and the Middle East closer together through joint economic ventures - or at least any that would be owned by Arab companies on US soil.

On the surface, for Sheikh Mohammed to have announced this decision on behalf of DP World appears to be easy capitulation - or given with a great deal of diplomacy on his part. He is a wise and savvy leader.

It's early times - the announcement has only just been made in the last couple of hours, so there isn't much detail to be known - if we ever do get to hear the full story.

Within me lies the hope that there's more to this outcome which gives DP World and the UAE the credit and recognition that they deserve. I'm just sorry that it will most likely be hidden away, and not used to positively silence the opponents of the deal who used outright lies, racism and fear as weapons to publicly denounce what could have been an historic partnership between the Middle East and the USA.


Dubai Sunshine said...

Hope everything works out with the luggage situation. When are you coming back to our sunny shores?

Seabee said...

Hysteria and electioneering.
The reality is, according to Bloomberg, foreign companies manage most terminals at US ports. More than 60% of container terminals at the 10 most active ports are at least in part controlled by foreign companies that sometimes are owned by foreign governments.
I expect Bush will veto, Congress will over-ride the veto and the ban will pass.

Good luck with the luggage!!

grapeshisha said...

It must be hell being there. You'll soon get the - you lost, we won treatment. All this on top of your luggage situation. I feel for you.

The last time I was there was 6 months post 9-11 and I got questioned big time for 3 hours. Horrible.

nzm said...

Thanks everyone, for the concern. There's still no sign of our luggage. We are now more worried about the expo signage than we are about our clothes. Clothes we can buy, expo signage is another story. As a Platinum Sponsor of next week's event in NY, we really need our signage!

DS - we'll be back on the 19th.

Seabee - it's ALL about electioneering. We just heard a political commentator say that there are 3 things that the Republicans are worried about (he almost said "shit scared about"!) in this election year:
1. Iraq
2. Corruption
3. Ports deal

He went on to say that the ports deal was now "taken care of", Iraq was "beyond their control", and the corruption charges against some congress representatives were being "dealt with".

GS - the guy at the immigration counter was too funny when I came in. When he saw that I lived in the UAE, he looked at me and said, "Whatever you do, don't mention the ports!" He also added that it was a lot of fuss about nothing and that he was for the deal.

Now everyone has heard about Dubai for another reason other than the Burj Al Arab Hotel! But I don't think that the publicity is positive, given the damage that the members of congress have created.

All this fuss about Dubai being a port through which "some of the 9/11 terrorists passed through." These people making these statements should be reminded that ALL the terrorists also passed through US ports on their way into the country. They should be more concerned about the current state of their own homeland security methods, but it's too easy to create hysteria about some other foreign country, and direct the focus away from the real issues.

I have an answer for anyone who tries the "we won, you lost" routine. I'll be sadly pointing out that in the end we all lost, as this was probably the biggest and best opportunity that the US and the UAE had to confirm their alliance, and for the US to work positively with the Middle East instead of bombing the hell out of it.

I'll also point out that it took the UAE to find and offer the resolution by stating that DP World would sell the US ports to a US entity to run. I'll ask the gloaters why it is that the "lesser" country delivered the satisfactory solution through its PR, when it should have been the US leading by example. (Although I do think that there were also a few US citizens who helped to find the solution too.)

I'm ready for any argument that comes my way, and will defend the UAE until I'm blue in the face. It's times like this that make me realise how much I love the country.

moryarti said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
moryarti said...

NZM .. it must've been over 24hrs since you lost your luggage ... did you get them back?

I think there is an IATA rule that forces the airline that lost your luggage to give you cash to buy clothes to cover your trip and until they place your bags.. i know for a fact that Emirates has this policy..

nzm said...

No, Moryarti - no luggage yet.

It's now been 5 days!

We flew Lufthansa, and the 4 bags were lost in Munich. It did then follow us to Berlin - along with 2000 other pieces of luggage that had also been lost in Munich - and that was just for Berlin passengers! We were only in Berlin for 2 nights, and it hadn't been found and identified before we left.

Both Frankfurt and Munich had the same issues. We were told that it was because of the snow, but it was actually a combination of new baggage handling software and a lack of baggage handlers.

So we left specific instructions on the Lufthansa computers that the baggage was to be delivered to our NY hotel - where we'll be from tomorrow onwards.

Now we hear that Lufthansa have put the bags on United Airlines (why not LH straight to NY?) and it's going through Washington, Denver and then maybe it will be in NY!

We have no reference numbers or documentation, other than the original luggage receipts that were given to us at DXB.

As far as shopping for new clothes - we have done that, and don't worry, J is making sure that LH are going to pay for it all! As one of their highest status frequent flyers, she will get this anyway.

It's the signage that we desperately need in time for the show that starts on Sunday.

Because of all the extra signage and bags that we were carrying, we checked in our clothes bags for the first time ever - we usually carry everything onboard with us.

We won't be doing this ever again!