YDATL Blog NOTE: The opinions expressed by our individual bloggers are their own, and not necessarily those of Young Democrats of Atlanta.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
A new hump day is dawning
Happy Wednesday, everybody, and welcome to a new era in the YDAtl blog.
Okay, not really. Perhaps "a new era" is lobbing it a bit too high, but suffice it to say, last week at the YDAtl Executive Board Meeting (sounds fancy, doesn't it? We had wine and everything) (No, you didn't pay for it, what are we, GOP Senators?) -- where was I? Right, last week at our meeting, your YDAtl officers decided to kick off a new, determined effort to liven up the blog (and reduce my workload by 86% in this arena). President Emily pointed out that while many of us are devoted Air America listeners, each person has their own pet favorite host: I've always been a fan of waking up to Rachel Maddow (mp3-delayed), while others among us are huge Randi Rhodes buffs and still others favor our local man Mike Malloy, just as a matter of style and taste. You might listen to AA all day, but you look forward to your favorite host and it gives you that extra oomph when the hour arrives. So we're going to take a crack at that with this blog: each officer has laid claim to a particular day of the week, and we're going to carve out our own policy niche to blog about in an attempt to establish some kind of running theme for each of these "weekly features." And then at the next Exec Board meeting I will lie about the Sitemeter data and lay claim to Most Popular and there will be wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth, but that's just how popularity contests go (see, for instance, the 2004 Presidential Election [sic]).
So that's your general introduction to The Secret Plan, and we'll now commence with the particular introductions, as we'll each christen our inaugural posts in this "new era" with some background on just who we are, what we'll be writing about, and why we think that's even remotely interesting.
Anyway, right, good morning and welcome to the middle of the post. I, Shelby, your Communications Chair (duh), will be your resident technology, defense, and national security policy blogger. I know this is a local YD club and our politics focus on the gold dome, so perhaps my blog subject niche doesn't fit so neatly into this venue, but that's just too bad; I'll do my best to look for Georgia-related stories on the subject. I staked this policy area out for myself because I'm a sixth year (God, that's really true, isn't it?) PhD student at Georgia Tech in Mechanical Engineering, with a minor in International Affairs. I did my undergraduate work in Aerospace Engineering and spent a few years out in the desert doing military propulsion R&D before coming back to school and looking for my moral fiber. As an aerospace engineer, I don't think I'll ever get rid of my innate fascination with things that fly (and, more often than not, explode), so I'm hoping to direct my career in the direction of international security policy, arms control and nonproliferation: still studying the bombs, but trying to put them back in the box (most of them, anyway). I've got a particular interest in the Iranian nuclear situation, but after a year of research and paper writing, I was still so blindsided by the election of Ahmadinejad in May that I figured I'd better sit down and shut up for a while. But I'm sure that won't keep me from blogging about US diplomatic missteps in the meantime.
Ultimately, I'm annoyed and frustrated with the continuing myth that Democrats are soft on defense, and when I hear Karl Rove say the GOP is going to use that as their main campaign issue, it really raises my hackles and I want to issue a presidential "Bring it on" -- except I simultaneously fear that we aren't ready to fight that fight as hard as we should. It's a popular refrain among our party's left wing that we could find so much more funding for this or that social program by cutting x% from the defense budget, so I might not be a terribly popular progressive among some if I stand up and start demanding we spend more and more on defense. Then again, phrased the right way -- let's spend more on actual defense, defense of the homeland, defense of our troops, on ensuring domestic energy security and on reducing global conflict, instead of building a new armada of aircraft designed originally to fight the erstwhile Soviet threat -- then perhaps that message isn't so crazy after all. As we've seen more and more over the last year or two, strength on defense is the GOP's high ground to lose, and boy oh boy are they packing up camp. The 9/11 Commission has given the administration failing grades on implementing the recommendations designed to protect the United States from terrorist attack; the White House and the Congress don't put their money where their big mouths are on national security; the president's pet war is coming apart in his hands while corroding the armed forces' preparedness for other conflicts or domestic disasters; and apparently the president isn't even in the loop on major decisions about who's going to oversee our port operations (while he continues to bristle at the notion that Congress be kept in the loop as well).
So I suppose, in a timely vein, I'll close with a couple of thoughts about this port deal fiasco. I've been sliding down the slope of disapproval on this one, rather than being calmed as more information comes out. When I first heard about it, I thought the people screaming bloody murder were just political opportunists: port operations are a complicated system, and there's no way one could instinctively know whether foreign ownership of one corporation posed a major security threat without sitting through days and days of boring briefings. I was, however, rather stunned that such a decision could be made without any kind of congressional oversight, and when the White House's reaction was to pooh-pooh our representatives' indignation as if they had no right to be involved or even informed, it was like the Cheney shooting incident all over again: God, White House, you really don't know when you have to throw yourself on the grenade at all, do you? I assumed that if the WH finally caved to reality and the Committee on Foreign Investments in the US gave Congress a comprehensive briefing, everyone would calm down. But then I heard Tony Blankley, editorial page editor at the ultra-liberal Washington Times, this guy with whom I almost never agree, explaining in detail (from his own meetings with port operations companies) how intimately involved in sensitive security information and planning such companies are, I finally woke up and smelled the coffee -- and boy did it smell bad. This isn't just some little misunderstanding. This is a big problem that the White House is trying to dismiss offhand because they still seem to have a problem with our democratic system of government.
Meanwhile, Jim Zogby of the Arab American Institute could also stand to climb out of his tree. He and others (including, funny enough, the White House) are swinging the dead cat of racism around, trying to besmirch anyone who dares question this deal as an anti-Arab bigot. I'm not about to deny that a lot of people in this country are just a wee bit paranoid about Arabs these days, but when you consider UAE's record of smuggling, money laundering, and ties to terror, frankly that dog won't hunt, Mr. Zogby. Do you really think most Americans would be tickled pink if we were selling port operations to Fidel Castro? To Hugo Chavez? Jiang Zemin? I didn't think so.
So it looks like there's going to be another 45-day review by CFIUS, going through the same motions as they did the first time, much like we were admonished in grade school to "go back and check your work before you hand in your test" -- at the end of an hour-long exam, did you ever actually do that? Me neither. What's more concerning are the rumors and allegations swirling around that such a review will be kept confidential, even though the statute authorizing CFIUS specifies that nothing in its mandate "shall be construed to prevent disclosure to either House of Congress or to any duly authorized committee or subcommittee of the Congress." We'll see who in Congress hears what story -- and what they do about it in the end.