Monthly Archives: June 2007

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.