Monthly Archives: June 2007

Rudy’s White Powder/White Power Problem

It’s been a bad couple of weeks for Rudy Giuliani’s campaign in South Carolina. Last week, his SC campaign chair, former state treasurer Thomas Ravenel, was forced to resign after being indicted for cocaine distribution (check out a copy of the the indictment here). Soon after, Giuliani’s camp installed Ravenal’s father, ex-state Senator Arthur Ravenel, as its SC campaign co-chair. Who is this Ravenel?

I immediately recognized Papa Ravenel from my Nation profile of neo-Confederate weapons industry lobbyist Richard T. Hines. Ravenel was a speaker at a rally Hines and white supremacists from the Council of Conservative Citizens and the Sons of Confederate Veterans planned in Columbia, South Carolina in 2000 to protest the removal of the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds. During his speech, Ravenel referred to the NAACP as, “The National Association of Retarded People.”

According to the Politicker’s Jason Horowitz, Ravenel’s remarks fit into an established pattern:

On October 18, 2006 The Post and Courier of Charleston, SC wrote ” Arthur Ravenel Jr., who is running for an East Cooper seat on the board, caught flack 16 years ago when he was in Congress and made a comment about white committee chairmen who operated on ‘black time,’ which he said meant fashionably late.”

So what will Giuliani do about his latest Ravenel problem? Perhaps it’s not a problem at all. In April, Rudy began honing his southern strategy, declaring his belief during an appearance in Alabama that displays of the Confederate flag on public property are “a local issue.” That was music to the ears of the neo-Confederates who hold sway over South Carolina’s GOP. With one of them on his payroll, they have even more reason to rejoice over Rudy.

The Washington Times Linked To Leonard Pitts Death Threats

The Washington Times is linked to neo-Nazi death threats to African-American columnist Leonard Pitts. No surprise. Fran Coombs, the neo-Confederate managing editor who I profiled for the Nation, has published four articles by Bill White. White, the neo-Nazi who published Pitts’ home address on his website and called for his assassination, in now under FBI investigation. Coombs, for his part, is slated to become Times editor-in-chief according to my sources in the newsroom there.

John Gorenfeld has the Moonie angle covered. I haven’t checked to see if the Times has covered the story but I’m sure they are more busy reporting on the illegal “invasion” from the south.

Lake of Fire

I can’t wait for the upcoming release of “Lake of Fire,” a controversial documentary about abortion. I actually requested a review copy from the film’s production company but was denied. My friend Fred Clarkson, who appears in the film and has seen it, posted on it at Talk2Action:

The 2 1/2-hour films takes a stark look at all sides of the issue, and includes actual footage of abortion procedures that Tony Kaye, the director, filmed himself; and jail house interviews with convicted murderers of doctors who have performed abortions — and much, much more. It took Kaye more than $6 million of his own money and more than 16 years to make. Every review I have read has found it very compelling. A longer TV version is said to be under consideration, and the Sundance Channel has purchased the rights.

Rudy and the Pedophile Priest

The story of Rudy Giuliani’s support for an accused child molester has been floating around for some time, and now it is beginning to gain traction. This is from an AP piece posted on the right-wing Newsmax:

Advocates for victims of abuse by Catholic clergy on Friday urged presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani to fire a priest who was suspended from the church and then hired by the ex-mayor’s security consulting business. A spokeswoman for Giuliani said the firm had no plans to fire Monsignor Alan Placa.

Placa, a childhood friend of Giuliani’s, has defended himself for years over allegations in a 2003 Suffolk County grand jury report that detailed decades-old abuses by priests in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y.

Salon has more on Rudy and Placa.

Edgy? No.

I will be posting soon on the reaction to my TBA video. For now I will just say that I agree with those who say my video was not edgy. I never intended for it to be edgy, which is why I found TBA’s refusal to show it so puzzling and ultimately disspiriting.

Bush to New Orleans Jazz Legend: “Pick Up All The Trash”

(This post was corrected)

Before Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of New Orleans and ruined many of its cultural landmarks, people from all over the city — all over the country, in fact — would flock to the Bywater section to see trumpeter Kermit Ruffins’ weekly gig. I was in New Orleans immediately before Katrina and had the privilege of hearing Ruffins play. Inside a small, smoky bar, with his band positioned literally inches from its raucous audience, Ruffins commanded the room, using popular R&B arrangements like John Legend’s “Ordinary People” as his platform for long, cathartic improvisations.

After the show, I spent twenty minutes talking music with Ruffins’ sidekick, the young trumpet prodigy, Trombone Shorty. A few of Shorty’s teenage friends stood nearby and listened in. The street was filled with the sound of easy chatter from liquor-sodden revelers who had stepped outside for a smoke. A Stevie Wonder song drifted from inside the bar. I think it was “My Cherie Amor.” I was a world away from the dour east coast jazz scene where staggering door fees, drink minimums, and dress codes enforce an uptight atmosphere that favors the well-to-do, excludes young people, and keeps listeners at a distance from performers, who are often conferred undue reverence.

Anyone who saw Ruffins in his element knew that behind the Bush administration’s incompetent response to Katrina was a deep-seated disrespect for the culture that thrived exclusively in New Orleans. The White House had no idea what was at stake when Katrina bore down on the Gulf Coast. To Bush and his cronies, New Orleans was little more than a cesspool of black Democrats. By the time the city was flooded, their consituency was safely evacuated.

Yesterday, George W. and Laura Bush hosted Ruffins and his band, the Barbeque Swingers, at the annual Congressional Picnic. Bush’s remark to Ruffins is the ultimate symbol of his disdainful attitude towards the culture of New Orleans that he allowed to drown under the floodwaters of the Mississippi:

MR. RUFFINS: Well, thanks for having us.

THE PRESIDENT: Kermit Ruffins and the Barbeque Swingers, right out of New Orleans, Louisiana. (Applause.)

MR. RUFFINS: Thank you. Thanks for having us. We’re glad to be here.

THE PRESIDENT: Proud you’re here. Thanks for coming. You all enjoy yourself. Make sure you pick up all the trash after it’s over. (Laughter.)

God bless you, and may God bless America. Thanks for coming. (Applause.)

END 8:12 P.M. EDT

(I am told by a member of the press corps who attended the ceremony and by a reader that Bush directed his “pick up the trash” comment at the audience. I still find Bush’s comment reflective of a dismissive attitude to his New Orleanian guests.)

The Film Take Back America Took Back

As a result of the attention surrounding my film about the 2007 Conservative Political Action Conference–it was a YouTube hit–the liberal Campaign for America’s Future asked me to produce a similar video about their annual conference, Take Back America (TBA), held in Washington. On the first day of TBA, my film about CPAC was shown to an audience that appreciated its satirical edge. The planners of TBA promptly scheduled a screening of my film about their conference for their closing lunch banquet. But when I finally delivered that film, they were less amused.

With over a thousand people waiting to view my film, my videographer, Thomas Shomaker, and I were whisked backstage. There, conference organizers told us “technical” problems made our screening impossible. I was finally told that our film was too “edgy.” In it I interviewed participants at the conference, including Ralph Nader, Al Sharpton, Mike Gravel, bloggers from Atrios to Matt Stoller, and activists. I suspect that its good-natured humor failed to meet a threshold of dull earnestness. Judge for yourself. Watch the film now.

The people who run the Campaign for America’s Future just refused to show my video at their Take Back America lunch banquet. I will be explaining why they torpedoed my scheduled screening as soon as I find a site to host my video. That should happen very soon so stay tuned. (FYI: I have edited the previously emotional tone out of this post).

I haven’t had time to do any reporting on the Take Back America conference but I’ll have something up tomorrow evening hopefully. I’m busy editing the video I’ll show tomorrow at the conference (about the conference) right now. I’ll be posting that soon too.

I’ll be at the Campaign for America’s Future Taking Back America conference today. I’m showing my CPAC video at 2:30 on the “Failure of Conservatism” panel. And i’ll be shooting a short video about the conference which should be entertaining though I doubt it will make the impact my CPAC video made. I should have it up on my blog by Thursday so we’ll see.