Wednesday, March 01, 2006

One Nation State's Freedom...

What really prompted this post ultimately, is the fact that a few months back, we extended a slimy tentacle and bought ourselves a Worldspace receiver and subscription. Unf. at the time, we had grandiose plans of buying a decent set of speakers, CD/DVD player and so on. So instead of buying a boombox type receiver, we bought the Diva. Its nice and compact, but one needs headphones. Which means that suddenly one has a (very small) radius of operation when one is listening to the radio.

Anyway, night after night, we lie prone on the bed next to this thing, and listen to some radio before dropping off into blissful, snory, slumber. A number of interesting channels are available, but old habits die hard and more often than not, we're listening to NPR. It isn't quite WBUR, but we've managed to catch some Fresh Air, All Things Considered, Day to Day, and even the Motely Fool fellas. No, have never heard Car Talk yet, maybe they don't broadcast it on the international edition of NPR or whatever, this remains crib #1 with NPR on Worldspace.

Be that as it may, a couple of days back, Day to Day carried a small segment on the ongoing DP World controversy. This set off a train of thought. "Whaaa...?", some of you say.


DP World is a Dubai government owned undertaking that is in the business of port operations and stevedoring in a number of ports across the world. So far, they seem to have a more or less unblemished record of operating port and container facilities in places such as Adelaide, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Jeddah, Djibouti, Vizag, Cochin, and ports in Germany, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. All this has been going on quietly for several years.

DP World is in the process of acquiring the British based port operator P&O for the neat sum of $6.85 billion. P&O of course, stands for the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, and appear to have been around since the Norman Conquest. If you were a young Brit officer, recently inducted into the Indian Civil Services or the Indian Army, chances were that you'd take a P&O liner from Southampton to Rangoon or wherever. Sofa, so good (said the furniture salesman).

The controversy stems from the fact that P&O has operations in several (6?) US ports. Critics of the deal say that if the DP World bid is successful, effectively an Arab government will be in control of American ports, and this could lead to security issues. There is an FAQ type thing on this. At the moment, there is a terrible ruckus about this in the US Congress. The people's representatives have all thrown up their hands in horror, while Bushy is saying he will torpedo any bid to torpedo the deal. Some interesting questions emerge.
  1. DP World has been running ports in a dozen other countries, so why the foofah now?
  2. Many months ago DP World bought the international terminal chunk CSX, a biggish transportation and logistics company with significant presence in the eastern US. This went through with nary a whimper.
  3. Finally, port security in the US has not been anything to write home about. The sheer volume of the problem is unbelievable. Only a fraction of the containers entering the US get examined by Customs or other security agencies, and you wouldn't need to spend $6.85 billion if your intention was to be naughty.
What to make of it?


Perhaps this one is from more familiar territory - the Mittal-Arcelor takeover bid. In late January 2006, the world's largest steelmaker Mittal Steel announced their intention to buy Arcelor shares and take over that company. This resulted in the most almighty ballyhoo.

Arcelor's board rejected the bid, stating that the two companies' "business and cultural values" were incompatible. Takeovers usually involve job cuts, and are therefore inherently political, so Lakshmi Mittal (who heads Mittal Steel) had to meet French and Luxembourg politicians and offer assurances on the job front. Things began to get ugly-ish with impressive speed.

Arcelor started to spin the takeover as a "raider with foreign values".
Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the former French president, warned against giving into economic "laws of the jungle." A former French finance minister referred to Mr. Mittal as "an Indian predator," although his company is traded and based in Europe and he hasn't lived in India for 30 years. Mr. Dollé, the Arcelor boss, said Rotterdam-based Mittal Steel is a "company full of Indians" that wants to buy his with "monnaie de singe." The expression means "monopoly money"--Mittal's offer is mostly shares--but the literal translation is "monkey money." That double-entendre wasn't lost on people.



Not so much in the realm of business and corporations, but tangentially related... David Irving has gained notoriety in recent years as a Holocaust denier. At one time, Irving was fairly well-known for the thoroughness and academic rigour that he brought to his work. In early 2000 (perhaps even earlier), he became a fairly controversial historian for denying the Holocaust. More specifically, for denying the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz. This happened in the course of a libel trial, in which Irving sued Prof. Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books for claiming that he was a Holocaust denier and anti-Semite.

Irving lost the case, was defiant in defeat, received support from Iranian newspaper, was ordered to pay 150,000 GBP towards defence costs, and was soon bankrupt.

Things were quiet for about three years. In November 2005, while on a visit to Austria, Irving was arrested by ze Polizei. Now Austria, along with a number of European countries (including Germany), have laws which make Holocaust denial a criminal offence. He was charged, refused bail, amazingly admitted his mistake, and was jailed for 3 years.

All of this happened, fortuitously enough, at the same time that the EXHIBIT D tamasha was in full cry.


The Danish cartoon tamasha. Enough said.

Consider A, B, C, and D above. Hypocrisy? Pragmatism? Sympathy? Racism? Who's to judge, and how?

Effin huge post. We are pooped. So, PJ.

"Who wrote 'The Spy Who Came In With The Cold'?"

"Iam Phlegming"

Urk. We actually invented this one, and are very proud.


that man keynes and his totally perverted intrigues said...

Since PJs are the order of the day?

What do the french call Lakshmi Mittal?

Raider of the lost Arc


Long time no contact my beamish boy.

Frabjous days indeed in these climes

And blog goes from strength to shtrength

and finally serious question:

what to make of the generalized response to danish cartoons and generalized non-response to bombing of shia mosque?

Hitchens in inimitable style ' we are against provocation, but not at the cost of free speech'. later- 'light comes from heat'.

Remind me to transfer knowledge of one Mr. Churchill's general ineptness garnered from comrade H.


Ludwig said...

> Raider of the lost Arc

Evidently, you are back.

> And blog goes from strength to shtrength

Evidently. You were away.

> non-response to bombing of shia mosque?

What mosque? Who cares? Remember the Izzard? "Help yourselves. We've been trying to do you in for centuries, anyway." In any case, blowing up the mosque didn't offend anyone's sentiments, it appears. A perverse, 'business as usual' situation.

Hitchens is fundastic, and please KT Mr. Churchill's i. as soon as feasible.

Love and blessings.

PS I have a shopping list for you. Please to intimidate when you are back in Beantown (B'lore) from Beantown (Baws'n) next. Ha ha.