Sending Messages
Published: Sunday | September 11, 2005

GEORGE W. Bush has always sounded like a bumbling moron. But surely a man who was elected Governor of Texas and then President of the United States could not be the utter fool that 'Dubya' comes across as, or so I've always told myself.

After all 50 million Americans can't be completely wrong, and there must be more to him than meets the eye.

Well Hurricane Katrina proved, beyond all doubt, that what you see with Bush is what you get. He appears elitist and incompetent. Only someone totally uncaring and inept could have watched and allowed thousands to suffer - and many to die - in squalor and deprivation for almost a week when he had all the powers of the wealthiest nation in history at his disposal. The hordes of vehicles and soldiers and supplies that swept into New Orleans on Saturday proved that it was not resources that had been lacking but the will and ability to marshal them promptly.


The Superdome and Convention Centre horrors laid bare America's glaring racial injustices for the entire world to see. There is no way white babies would have been allowed to starve, or white old people allowed to die of exposure, or white bodies allowed to rot in the streets.

Let's hope that the damage George Bush has done will not have too long lasting an effect on the United States of America and consequently the rest of the world. Guns, butter and tax cuts is how one wag summed up the Bush regime. He turned a budget surplus into a record deficit, involved his nation in an unnecessary, bungled and hugely expensive war, and publicly disgraced his country in the eyes of the entire world. He's surely the worst president in living memory. And he's not even an honest fool. Rather than admitting he screwed up in New Orleans and asking his country's forgiveness, he now declares he personally will investigate 'what went right and what went wrong.' What could be more shameless?

Now it's tempting to read all sorts of things into Hurricane Katrina's after effects, yet whether it's positive proof of global warning or a harbinger of American decline remains to be seen. These kinds of things take decades or centuries to play themselves out. But it has certainly been an abject lesson in how not to lead and of the terrible possible consequences of having someone in charge who simply does not have what it takes.


Well we in Jamaica are now wondering what kind of leader our next Prime Minister will be. It may be a gross over simplification to put it this way, but all the rumours you hear pretty much boil down to questions like these: Does Bruce Golding have the cojones? Does Peter Phillips have the emotional stability? Does Portia Simpson have the intelligence? Does Omar Davies have the personal warmth?

The PNP leadership contenders are handicapped right now by having to fight on two fronts at one time. They have to satisfy both the delegates who will choose the next party leader and the electorate who will vote in the next P.M. It's entirely possible that the contender most suited to win favour with one set of decision makers is not the best person to impress the other. And those involved in a party leadership battle always have to fight with one arm tied behind their backs. It makes no sense to totally belittle someone whom you will, in the future, have to work closely with in one capacity or another.

JLP leader Golding, however, has a totally free hand to show the public what he is made of. He certainly broke badly from the gates with his 'bangarang' and 'Nazi concentration camp' remarks. But since then he has made a bold attempt to seize the nation's imagination, first with the best budget speech in memory and now by staging a mostly successful national demonstration.

The crowds on Tuesday were not huge. But the radio talk shows indicated a significant level of silent support among the masses. And an informal Vox Pop of my staff - who were almost evenly split among the PNP and JLP during the last general election - was strongly in favour of the Mr. Golding's actions. Most did not like the idea of road blocks, but nearly all welcomed the idea of 'sending a message', because 'times are tough and the Government needs to do something to ease up the pressure on us'.

The bottom line really is that for most workers, inflation is outpacing pay increases. The Memorandum of Understanding that the Government and unions signed postulated single digit inflation, but the Consumer Price Index has gone up by roughly 15 per cent over the past year. Only a truly out of touch administration could expect the people to stand idly by while its standard of living is eaten away.


In fact the JLP might even have done the Government a bit of a favour by allowing the populace to let off some steam in a more or less non-violent way. For while a few roadblocks got out of hand, Golding's promise of a peaceful non-disturbing demonstration was more or less fulfilled. Perhaps this is signalling a new maturity in the Jamaican public. There are
plenty of places where people demonstrate in the tens of thousands without the country having to lock down and an entire day of productivity being lost. Hopefully this relatively incident-free protest is a first step in this direction.

It certainly was hilarious to hear the PNP condemning the demonstration as disruptive. After all, it was their most popular leader who perfected the art of the roadblock and who first came to national fame by lying down in the road to stop oncoming traffic. But such is the hypocritical nature of politics. No doubt the JLP would have tried a similar spin had the situations been reversed.

Naturally too the PNP tried to blame all the increases that spurred the demonstration on record high oil prices beyond anyone's control. And there's some truth to this. Yet the Government could have done a lot more to alleviate the oil rise impact. Some obvious no brainers are Daylight Saving Time (DST) and tax and duty concessions on diesel powered vehicles and solar energy technology.

It's estimated for instance that nearly 40 per cent of new cars bought in Britain are diesel powered, as diesel gives much better mileage and is more environmentally friendly. As a friend says, the Government is asleep in not making it cheaper to import diesel vehicles than petrol ones. As it is in not introducing DST and promoting solar energy in such a sun blessed country. I'm sure informed specialists could come up with many other feasible energy-saving measures that would lower the national oil bill, and one one coco full basket.

Tuesday's demonstrations also had a distinct aura of very dirty chickens coming home to roost in droves. For the nation is now beginning to feel the real effects of all those billions wasted in Operation Pride, Netserv, Sandals Whitehouse, the National Solid Waste Management Agency and the countless other scandals witnessed over the past 15 years.

By the way what is happening with those NSWMA reports? Are the people who oversaw the squandering of $2 billion and then told reporters to 'shut your damn mouth' really going to be allowed to walk away saying "That chapter of my life is closed, I've moved on" and suffer absolutely no consequences? A Government that allows taxpayers' money to be wasted in such a cavalier fashion deserves no sympathy and will likely get none at the ballot box.

"A wake up call to P.J. and Omar" is how one person described Tuesday's protests to me. And my advice to them, and it is worth what they're paying for it, is to stop telling us what they can't do and fix the many things crying out to be fixed.

For as Lady Saw says, if you can't do the work make a next man come.

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