With Richard Knee
Photo provided by Richard Knee
'Port' deal is misnomered
February 27, 2006
The Sentinel on Friday carried a story
by Bay City News Service's Jason Benner regarding the outcry over
Dubai Ports World's proposed acquisition of P&O Ports.
Benner said the deal would mean that DPW would operate six major
U.S. Atlantic ports.
It's not so.
P&O Ports does not run any U.S. port. It manages or co-manages
a single cargo terminal at each of several U.S. ports. If the
acquisition goes through, DPW would replace P&O in that role.
Note the difference: most U.S. ports, even the smaller ones,
comprise multiple cargo-handling and/or passenger-processing terminals
(some also accommodate other activities such as fishing, fish
processing and recreational boating).
Oversight of all waterfront activities rests with port or harbor
administrations, which are public entities. DPW's acquisition
of P&O would not change that. And to my knowledge, at no U.S.
port does a single company operate all the terminals.
The entire discourse on this matter has lacked a clear distinction
-- or even a fuzzy one -- between a "port" and a "terminal."
The problem is that members of Congress have mischaracterized
the DPW-P&O deal from the start, and most journalists and
news outlets -- including the likes of the San Francisco Chronicle,
the Associated Press, Reuters and the New York Times -- have simply
parroted the fallacy instead of doing any research to learn whether
the politicians' claims were even half true.
Moreover, ships from Arab countries have for many decades been
visiting American ports, drawing nary a peep. Russia's Far Eastern
Shipping Co. has been sending its vessels to U.S. ports since
the Cold War, and the only complaints about it came from rival
companies that accused the carrier of below-cost pricing policies.
We can argue over the validity of the security concerns surrounding
the DPW-P&O deal; in fact, we SHOULD argue about it. Vigorous
debate is always healthy. But the context needs to be accurate.
Richard Knee is a San Francisco-based freelance journalist.
He has been writing almost exclusively about freight-related issues
for about 25 years.E-mail him at email@example.com.
TO STEER KIDS AWAY FROM THE MILITARY
Expose the spin, don't hide it
November 1, 2005
A measure on this November's ballot, Proposition I, would urge
the San Francisco Unified School District to bar military recruiters
from its campuses while establishing education and job-training
Progressive groups are predictably endorsing it. Particularly
regarding whether to keep recruiters out, they should think twice.
Before I go further, I want to distance myself from those who
have signed opposing arguments in the voters' guide. They brand
Proposition I's backers as pro-terrorists and traitors, and I
disagree most strongly with that characterization.
What's given rise to attacks and threatened attacks on the United
States, and serves as Al Qaeda's best recruiting tool is this
country's misguided policy toward the Middle East. Even the wimpiest
among us finds the courage to rebel when subjected to decades
The motive behind Proposition I is to steer kids in San Francisco's
public schools toward college and away from the military. And
that I applaud.
But the measure, if passed by the voters and implemented by the
school district, could backfire.
First, there's a not-so-little matter of money. The school district
could lose federal funds if it gives recruiters the boot. Why
not let the recruiters stay on campus - and use that federal money
to launch the scholarship program that Proposition I's supporters
That, though, is not my main concern.
As a journalist and (small-d) democrat, I'm a long-time advocate
of free speech, a believer in letting all sides talk on a given
My stepfather, himself a one-time reporter, likes to start debates
with people, to challenge their assumptions, even if it means
arguing from a position he actually opposes. It is, he says, the
best way to learn about an issue.
So I propose that the school district make sure that the students
get the complete picture of military life. There are plenty of
ways to do this:
Stage assemblies at which veterans of the current and recent
wars participate on panels with recruiters.
While the youths are hearing about the self-discipline, the physical
and mental toughness, and the job skills they can acquire in the
military, they can also learn that the military assigns jobs and
job training to meet its own needs first; about the shoddiness
or paucity of protective equipment for our troops in the field;
about arbitrary extensions of active duty, which can tear families
apart and ruin civilian careers; about the Bush administration's
occasional attempts to reduce or eliminate combat pay; about medical
and psychological care that the Veterans' Administration denies
to men and women who have suffered crippling injuries, latent
illnesses and/or severe trauma while risking life and limb in
the service of their country.
The veterans or anyone else in the room could also ask the recruiters
to explain why Barbara and Jenna Bush haven't volunteered for
military service in Iraq or Afghanistan - or, for that matter,
anywhere - while verbally supporting those campaigns.
Produce and distribute literature explaining the risks cited
above. The district could pay for that with the federal money
it gets for allowing the recruiters into the schools.
Supporters of Proposition I should ask themselves: Do we want
our kids to learn about military life in school, where the recruiters'
pitches can be examined and challenged, or in a recruitment office,
where the military's spin is all they'll hear?
The way to defeat lies and half-truths is to expose them to the
light of day, not hide them in a closet.
Richard Knee is a freelance journalist in San Francisco, active
on First Amendment and freedom-of-information issues. While he
shuns most political activity for professional-ethics reasons,
he makes no secret that his views are quite left of center. E-mail
him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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published on FogCityJournal.com are not necessarily the views or beliefs of
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