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To buy, or not Dubai

Imagine Intrawest, owners of Copper Mountain and Whistler-Blackcomb, taking over management of ticket sales for Denver Resorts Inc. (formerly VRI).DRI spent months combing through the proposal, along with offers from other interested parties, and reached the conclusion that the agreement was sound and stockholders needn’t be bothered with the details because it was a simple business deal. Intrawest would not own the ticket counters, of course, but merely manage the sales therein.Would we cry a collective fowl, shouting bird flu analogies about the fox watching the henhouse and such to drive the point home concerning solidarity and our abject fear of outsiders?President Bush finds himself is a similar pickle with the Dubai Ports World issue. Only his pickle is for real, or at least certain pundits and politicians are making it look that way. A foreign company (not a foreign country) is currently running parts of all six ports involved with the proposed deal. But Dubai Ports World was actually started by the United Arab Emirates government back in 1999, thus making it a state-owned business. However, DPW has a number of Americans well known in the shipping industry in its senior leadership, including general counsel, a senior vice president and an outgoing chief operating officer, Edward H. Bilkey, who is a former U.S. Navy officer. So what’s the big fuss?Some are complaining because a few of the 9/11 hijackers were apparently born in that particular Arab nation. But that’s like condemning Gary, Ind., for Michael Jackson, who perhaps not coincidentally now lives in Dubai.I posit that the entire matter even being an issue is one of political convenience.We are coming up on mid-term elections in which a lame duck president, with the lowest popularity figures of his administration in tow, is going about his business of swimming upstream wearing rose-colored waders, apparently choosing to ignore both shores of political debate on just about every wave that washes across his current.The approvals originally granted for the deal were so far under the political radar that the president was not even aware of it until the media grabbed the story and began doing Chicken Little impressions.But Trojan horse metaphors and Harriet Miers jokes (she could be the DPW American spokesperson!) can only play for so long.Opposing party members will always attempt to distance themselves from the president, with the lone exception being the occasional attack on U.S. soil. Now the whole lame duck segment performs its role for Republicans wishing to be elected or re-elected next fall.So forget the fact that DPW runs ports all over the world, from Australia through China, Korea and Malaysia to India, Germany and Venezuela, etc., and has a reputation for being one of the best run in the world.Ignore the fact that in December 2004, UAE was the first Middle East government to accept the U.S. Container Security Initiative as policy to screen all containers for security hazards before heading to America.Turn you eyes to the May 2005 signing of an agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy to prevent nuclear materials from passing through its ports and the installation of radiation-detecting equipment to do so.And disregard the fact that port management has absolutely nothing to do with port security, DPW having as much to do with safety as the town of Avon does with keeping Denver Resorts.Instead, concentrate on the fact that these people are Arabs, and therefore must be evil. Yep, that’s it, James Blunt singing “You’re Beautiful” to a big ol’ plate of blissful political ignorance.Face it, this is simply not a popular idea because of Islam, and on the surface would be akin to hiring the Japanese to manage the L.A. port in 1941. Politicians of all colors will use the issue as a springboard to distance themselves, and therefore their ideals, from the president to pursue their own political careers. Thus the deal will in all likelihood sink faster than local memories of Adam Aaron accomplishments, never allowed to be judged on its own merits. The big picture is not about port security. It’s about winning elections and credibility involving homeland security.As to the fictional deal for Intrawest, it would be based upon performance, which in this case would be ticket sales, so the incentive for them would NOT be to stifle sales of a competitor but to sell as many tickets as possible at fair prices, thus maximizing their own profits.After all, it’s only business.Richard Carnes of Edwards writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at poor@vail.net.Vail, Colorado


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