Why is Bush facing this flood of vitriol?
THERE was a time in the 1980s when anything that went wrong was immediately blamed on Margaret Thatcher. One only had to look out the bedroom window in the morning and, if it was raining, you would expect Michael Fish to blame the precipitation on the PM.
Her critics found it hard to deal with her and so every possible opportunity to blame her was seized upon with relish. Such behaviour revealed, to Thatcherites like me, just how once seemingly balanced broadcasters were in fact communists that slept under their beds instead of in them.
I've just come back from Fiji (via Los Angeles) where my only source of information about the appalling Hurricane Katrina has been CNN and BBC News 24 and, if you were to rely on their reports, President Bush should be impeached for dereliction of duty - if not simply thrown to the mercy of the mob in New Orleans (not that they would accept any mobs existed).
It did seem surreal that while Santa Monicans were going about their everyday business in the same country, a natural disaster on a huge scale - a flood the size of Britain - was unravelling. It is easy to forget just how vast the United States is and how difficult it actually was to comprehend the scale of the problem.
Still, the sheer bile coming out from politicians like the Reverend Jesse Jackson (that it was a plot against black people) and the tone of news reports displayed an ignorance or mendaciousness that I thought unwarranted.
Let's remember, America is a federal country and there are certain responsibilities that lie with an individual state - called States' Rights - responsibilities that they guard jealously and will not give up on easily. It is with the City Mayors, who have significant authority, and the State Governors, who are far more powerful than our First Minister, Jack McConnell, that responsibility for many of the first actions lay.
There is now reason to believe that before the hurricane hit, the Mayor of New Orleans and Governor Blanco of Louisiana were asked by the National Hurricane Centre to begin mandatory evacuation of New Orleans after the buoy 240 miles south in the Gulf of Mexico had recorded 68 foot waves before it was destroyed - but refused.
There are also reports that President Bush requested, time and again, the legal authority from Governor Blanco so that the federal government and the military could begin mobilisation and call up of the National Guard from other states.
Why did the President declare the area a national disaster zone before the state of Louisiana? Was half the federal aid of the past decade to New Orleans for levee construction, maintenance and repair diverted to fund a marina and support gambling ships as is alleged?
It is true that the federal administration - Bush's officials - have been granted greater freedom to act without a state's consent since the barbarity of 9/11 to act. But it is a limited power.
I'm not saying Bush is blameless and that his administration did not make errors - and he admits as much today - I simply don't know enough of the facts to come to any meaningful conclusions. What I do know is that many commentators, even those on the scene, would not have enough facts to make a worthwhile judgement either. By ignoring the lines of responsibility one can only conclude that, like blaming Thatcher for the weather in the 80s, Hurricane Katrina presented, for some, too good an opportunity to attack Bush to let it pass.
Let's help those in need and apportion blame, if needed, once we have the facts.
Gordon has dug all of us into a hole
THE walls of the trench really are beginning to cave in around Gordon Brown. British manufacturing is falling through the floor, his retailing-fed boom is now going bust and our trade balance with the rest of the world is the worst on record.
His biggest headache - an embarrassing level of government borrowing as his tax receipts continue to disappoint - is likely to become a head-splitting migraine. Inflation is now rising and may pass through the three per cent barrier next month. This will set alarm bells ringing.
Many economists have been calling on the Bank of England to cut interest rates to help give the economy (and especially those retailers) a fillip; but we're already drowning in debt and the job of the Bank of England is primarily to control money inflation. It is there to maintain the relative value of our currency, the pound sterling, not let it erode.
So, if the interest rate should move, it should actually be upwards to dampen the demand for more money, thus driving out inflation. No relief for Brown there.
Then there's the rise in oil prices, which is an additional inflationary pressure. Forget blaming OPEC, Brown could cut his own duties now, relieve the inflationary pressure and bring joy to motorists and hauliers across the nation.
But he won't. Every time the oil price rises so, too, do Brown's revenues, giving him a windfall measured in billions. He needs that money badly, for as the economy falters under the weight of his regulations and taxes, his other sources of revenue are dwindling.
Anyway, he believes he will become Prime Minister and it can all become Alistair Darling's problem then.
Gordon Brown's in a hole of his own making and he's still digging. In such circumstances, I can't say I feel sorry for him.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West