In defence of GWB

I dislike George Bush intensely, and watching him suffer and be pilloried is one of the few plus points of the horrible disaster in the US. However, most commentators doing so seem to be doing so without much of an understanding of How The US Works.

It’s not a country like the UK or France, where central agencies take primary responsibility for everything government does and where the PM can legitimately be blamed for things that go wrong. Rather, it’s a country where the President is generally responsible (although not solely so) for international and interstate matters, and where the states are generally responsible for local issues.

Now, it’s possible that GWB’s actions as President have genuinely impaired the states’ ability to cope with natural disasters – in particular, rolling up flood relief into the Department of Homeland Security and then diverting the money from flood programmes to fund nebulous ‘antiterrorist’ measures. This will take a while to prove, but is legitimate to raise.

However, the mere fact that the flood relief effort in New Orleans massively fucked up is not an indictment of the President. The fault lies partly, and perhaps primarily, with New Orleans’ (Democratic) mayor and Louisiana’s (Democratic) governor.

Side note: some hilariously nasty and gloaty press reactions from around the world are collected here. My favourite is the Frenchman saying "Arrogance is never a good adviser". Meanwhile, the Guardian has some excellent, non-gloaty reporting (indeed, some of the best reporting I’ve seen this year on any subject) on Katrina and its causes, human impact and consequences.

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Bits and pieces

Making up a moral panic then using it to justify your bizarre prejudices: here.

New Labour’s horrible, horrible illiberalism explained by a sympathiser: here (a sensible person adds: "this shit about redefining what it means to be British is now just standard political waffle. No-one has made any decent attempt at it. I think that an important part of being British is probably not worrying all the time about what it means to be British")

What we’re fighting for: here. Are the Allied Forces in Iraq as bad as the Resistance [*] yet? If not, what exact criteria should we be using to judge? ‘Killing civilians’ and ‘kidnapping and torturing innocents’ seem to be flawed ones…

[*] Very bad and evil, notwithstanding their Resisting A Bad Bunch Of Occupying Bastards credentials. I suspect they still play a marginally greater role than us in making day-to-day life shit for Iraqis, although they wouldn’t have had the chance but for our Glorious Liberation.

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Curtis Talks Sense

Adam Curtis is probably second only to Jean Charles de Menezes in the ‘person most grossly libelled and smeared by right-wing idiots following the July 7 bombings’ stakes.

To be fair, both behaved rather objectionably: Mr de Menezes had the gall to try and go to work while looking a bit ethnic, while Mr Curtis had the gall to make a TV programme last year that cast doubt on the fairy story of Osama Bin Laden as sinister cult leader plotting to take over the world. He claimed that Al Qaeda was an ideology that motivates sociopathic misfits to set up DIY cells, rather than a coherent organisation with a unified structure or supply chain.

Not only has Mr Curtis’s thesis become generally accepted among people of all ideologies who know anything at all about the War on Terror and its permutations; not only is it backed up by every development in Iraq and Afghanistan; but it’s even directly supported by the July 7 events (among other things, it explains both why the bombs were so rubbish, and why the police failed to catch anyone ahead of the attacks).

Despite – well, because of – being correct, Mr Curtis was immediately smeared by authoritarian tossers post-July-7 as having claimed Al Qaeda and/or terrorism didn’t exist, and therefore having been proven wrong by those events. This is most bizarre behaviour, confirming my long-held belief that people who support the War On Terror (strong, Bombing The Ay-Rabs variant) are all mad.

Anyway. All this is a rather long introduction to an excellent new piece by Adam Curtis on the new dangers facing us, and the stupid knee-jerk reactions that could make them even worse. Guess who’s likely to implement them…?

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Remember the pathetic non-story where Ken Livingstone was accused of antisemitism after telling a nasty piece of work journalist that he shared personality traits with concentration camp guards? It’s back, thanks to an official complaint from the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

Send the Board to the gas chambers, that’s what I say (no, not for their ethnicity; for their fatuous whining. And obviously, the people who complain about Bob Geldof saying ‘fuck’ on the telly should be ahead of them in the queue….)

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Emperor’s clothes

I’m normally pro-European integration, and even vaguely (with obvious corruption-related reservations) pro-EU. However, the China clothes row makes me want to abandon all my pro-Europe tendencies and set fire to Peter Mandelson.

Imposing quotas on Chinese textiles makes it harder for Europeans (and disproportionately low-income Europeans, at that) to clothe themselves; it reduces the rate at which Chinese workers are lifted out of poverty; and it does little for European textiles workers either. The Chinese contractors will simply shift medium-term production to Laos, Cambodia, and other even-more-budget-than-China places, which I guess is a good thing in poverty-alleviation terms, but I’ve not yet seen anyone try to justify the quotas that way…

So what kind of an idiot, other than the kind of idiot who owned a Spanish textiles factory, could possibly support the quotas? (that was a rhetorical question, although this thread features an impressive array of such idiots.)

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