Colleen Rowley, John Hall in NYC

[Update: Please note update — admission is pricey.] I just got word that songwriter John Hall, who is running for Congress, New York’s 19th District, and Colleen Rowley, who is running for Congress, Minnesota’s 2nd District, will be appearing at a fundraising event/concert at Crobar, 530 West 2th Street, New York City, on March 14, from 6 to 8 pm. I’ll post more details when I get them.

Update: The event is going to be more expensive than I realized, but if anyone is interested and/or curious drop me an email or leave a comment here and I’ll provide the info.

Set This Circus Down

While we’re talking about New Orleans today — ABC News reports:

Faith Hill and Tim McGraw — two stars who usually stay out of politics — blasted the Hurricane Katrina cleanup effort, with Hill calling the slow progress in Louisiana and Mississippi “embarrassing” and “humiliating.”

The country music artists — who are natives of the storm-ravaged states — were at times close to tears, and clearly angry when the subject of Katrina came up during a news conference today. They had met with reporters in Nashville to promote their upcoming Soul2Soul II Tour, but when asked about the hurricane cleanup, the stars pulled no punches. …

… McGraw specifically criticized President Bush. “There’s no reason why someone can’t go down there who’s supposed to be the leader of the free world … and say, ‘I’m giving you a job to do and I’m not leaving here until it’s done. And you’re held accountable, and you’re held accountable, and you’re held accountable.

“‘This is what I’ve given you to do, and if it’s not done by the time I get back on my plane, then you’re fired and someone else will be in your place. ‘” …

The All Spin Zone: “Don’t look for Bush’s base to go demonizing Faith Hill and Tim McGraw like they did the Dixie Chicks.” Facing South: “When the King and Queen of Country say your Katrina policy is “bullshit,” you’ve got problems. And just watch, they won’t get the Dixie Chicks treatment — they’re too popular, and the public is with them 100% on this issue.”

Oh, but don’t count wingnuttery out. The smearing of McGraw and Hill are well underway over at Free Republic and rightie blog NewsBusters. Sample comments from the Freep:

I’m a big country music fan, but always suspected these two were a couple of lefties. In the words of Laura Ingraham, “shut up and sing”.

The dumb arse Tim thinks Clinton is the greatest President ever. Nuff said.

Fox News said these two are getting ready to kick off a concert tour. I just did a search on Google and it’s true. They have a tour called Soul2Soul starting in April and running through August. They must be trying to get some free publicity to push their tour.

These two should be careful or they’ll go the way of the Dixie Chix (excommunicated from Country Music).

I won’t buy her (or McGraw’s) CDs because they are Lefties.

Hopefully the country music radio stations will pick up on this and Dixie Chick their arses.

What is it with fascists and music?

Don’t Be a Tool

I want to thank alert reader Jim Murphy for sending this photo. What a hoot. Does the Weenie think he’s really fooling anybody?

This photo also made me think about something Sidney Blumenthal wrote in the Guardian article I discussed in the last post. “In a recently published hagiography on the theme of Bush-as-Prince-Hal, Rebel-in-Chief, written by the rightwing pundit Fred Barnes, Bush explained to him that his job is to ‘stay out of minutiae, keep the big picture in mind,'” Blumenthal writes.

So why all the photo ops that accomplish nothing but PR for Bush? What “big picture” does Bush have in mind with the toolbelt?

Years ago I heard some Republican pundit say that the difference between presidents Carter and Reagan was that Carter got bogged down in the details of operating the ship, but Reagan stayed at the wheel and steered. Well, our Dubya acts as if he’s just a passenger on a luxury cruise, and he spends most of his time rolling dice in the ship casino.

Recently Margeret Carlson wrote about the United Arab Emirates port deal [update: which may no longer be an issue, as the UAE is divesting itself of US holdings]:

George W. Bush believes in delegating, and delegate he did, to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a multiagency body created in 1975 to assess the security risks when foreigners want to invest in this country. The commission has turned down one deal out of 1,500. …

… The commission is supposed to buck decisions of this magnitude up to the president for final review. That didn’t happen here, but the president doesn’t mind. He wouldn’t have done things differently if he had been consulted.

But the decision alarmed just about everyone else, including Bush’s most loyal lieutenants. Bush has always boasted that his steely judgment is what we want in a crisis, even though it failed him when confronted with an intelligence report headed, “Osama bin Laden Promises to Strike Inside U.S.” …

…Republican Senator Lindsey Graham came out against the sale, and Tom DeLay, the former majority leader, warned the president that he had made a “huge mistake” that Congress would overturn.

Bush sees this as just another one of those details that a big-picture CEO, who prides himself on an empty in-box, isn’t supposed to trouble himself with.

It’s like the detail of whether he was cutting back on funding for alternative energies at the moment he was announcing in his State of the Union speech that he was doing the opposite. The wind- and solar-power lab in Colorado where the president spoke two days ago had to hastily rehire 32 researchers fired because of Bush budget cuts, so as not to embarrass the president who’d come to speak about getting over our “addiction to oil.”

Can He Mean Chertoff?

He calls the lack of money to back up his proposal a “mixed message.” Others might see it as hypocrisy or worse. Alternative energy is going to get as much traction in Bush land as the mission to Mars he announced in his 2004 State of the Union address.

To Bush, this is an instance where the big picture is concern for an ally and global trade trumps other things. Besides, he says, the Department of Homeland Security will be riding herd on the Dubai crowd.

Can he mean Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, the so-called smart one raked over the coals for his disgraceful handling of Katrina by Republican Senator Susan Collins last week, the one who couldn’t do his job because of Brownie — or was it the other way around?

There is no professional who knows what Chertoff is doing in charge of homeland security. The department Bush built from scratch is a disgrace, largely because to Bush all civil servants are bureaucrats and the government a pinata to be hit until all the goodies are disgorged.

There’s a distinction between seeing the big picture and being totally clueless, but this distinction seems to elude the President. He acts less like a CEO than an dim-witted aristocrat who needs a body servant to tie his shoes.

Bush has no idea what a President does, but with the right props and lighting he can look as if he’s doing a heck of a job.


In Matthew 7:15-20 Jesus explains how to sort true from false prophets. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves,” Jesus said. “By their fruits you will know them. Do you gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree produces good fruit; but the corrupt tree produces evil fruit. A good tree can’t produce evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn’t grow good fruit is cut down, and thrown into the fire. Therefore, by their fruits you will know them.”

I’ve always thought this to be good advice that can be applied to many circumstances — judge people not by what they promise, but by what they accomplish. We might assume, for example, that we can judge the quality of a leader by looking at the results of his leadership. That seems basic. Yet there are always people who can”t see past the image, the persona, and the promise, and who will follow a genuinely bad leader off a cliff.

Take New Orleans. A few days ago a video made pre-Katrina came to light, and in it the President exhibited all the leadership qualities of soggy toast. The Right came to Bush’s defense, saying that it’s wrong to judge an entire presidency by one video. And they are right. If it were just one video, I’d say, ignore it.

But it isn’t just one video, is it? Sidney Blumenthal writes in today’s Guardian,

In New Orleans, a sad Mardi Gras has come and gone, while crews from the morgue continue searching for bodies – still finding them. The city has lost more than half its population, most of the refugees are African-Americans, and their neighbourhoods remain scenes of devastation. Having rejected a plan for rebuilding, Bush travelled to New Orleans for another photo-opportunity this week to announce a programme that would supposedly give money to the homeless but absurdly will not permit destroyed housing to be replaced by new. Not one penny so far has been spent on new homes. Six months after the tempest, New Orleans, one of the glories of American life and culture, lies in ruins, and Bush visits to pose as visionary.

Even more pathetic, yesterday the Weenie-in-Chief blamed Congress for the sluggish response. As Glenn Greenwald said — conservative belief in “personal responsibility” is so over.

This Associated Press story from February 25 describes the fruits of George Bush’s leadership:

Leave the French Quarter on Rampart and head east, toward the devastated Ninth and Lower Ninth wards and East New Orleans.

All around are the carcasses of flooded houses. Katrina laid waste to more than 215,000 homes. Many are abandoned, their doors wide open.

Only an estimated 189,000 of the city’s roughly 500,000 pre-Katrina residents have returned. For now, the city is overwhelmingly whiter and more affluent than it was before.

Affordable housing is scarce, and FEMA has only filled 48,158 of the 90,000 trailer requests it’s received from displaced families in Louisiana, leaving many to wait out their existence in places like Atlanta, Houston and Little Rock. With only 20 of 128 public schools now open, parents who can’t afford to send their children to private schools have no choice but to live elsewhere.

Children who have returned must wade through wreckage to get to school. “You never really get used to it,” said 18-year-old Mark Buchert, a senior at Brother Martin, an all-boys Catholic high school in the devastated Gentilly neighborhood.

The destruction gets worse. Keep driving as Rampart turns into St. Claude Avenue and you’ll go six miles before you pass a working traffic light. Broken signals swing from their poles like men hanging from gallows. Others blink red. Elsewhere, they lie on their side in intersections, blinking yellow. …

… At night, the darkness is pervasive. Six months after the storm made landfall Aug. 29, a little over a third of the structures in the city have electricity. Even fewer have hot water or cooking gas.

This situation is not just the fault of the federal government; state and local government don’t seem to be terribly functional, either. But Louisiana is a poor state with limited resources. This is a situation that cries out for someone to step in and take charge; someone who can marshal the resources of the nation and send them where they are desperately needed.

And normally that someone would be the President of the United States. I’m not saying the POTUS should personally fill out requisitions and inspect street lamps. But he should be following up, rattling cages, lighting fires, busting heads, and making things happen.

Instead, as the hurricane hit, Bush called the head of Homeland Security to talk about immigration, then went to a birthday party. The next day, Bush gave a speech on Iraq at a California naval base and later played with a borrowed guitar. The day after that, as conditions in New Orleans deteriorated, Bush promised to work with a task force to coordinate reief efforts. Finally, four days after Katrina made landfall, Bush’s aides had him watch a DVD of television news reports so that he would understand how bad the situation was. They had to stage an intervention, because the President had done nothing to learn on his own.

It isn’t just one video. And the whole world was watching.

And it isn’t just New Orleans. Google “Bush incompetence” and you’ll get a fruitbasket of hits. Some of you may remember the Harold Meyerson column of January 25

In numbing profusion, the newspapers are filled with litanies of screw-ups. Yesterday’s New York Times brought news of the first official assessment of our reconstruction efforts in Iraq, in which the government’s special inspector general depicted a policy beset, as Times reporter James Glanz put it, “by gross understaffing, a lack of technical expertise, bureaucratic infighting [and] secrecy.” At one point, rebuilding efforts were divided, bewilderingly and counterproductively, between the Army Corps of Engineers and, for projects involving water, the Navy. That’s when you’d think a president would make clear in no uncertain terms that bureaucratic turf battles would not be allowed to impede Iraq’s reconstruction. But then, the president had no guiding vision for how to rebuild Iraq — indeed, he went to war believing that such an undertaking really wouldn’t require much in the way of American treasure and American lives.

Meyerson goes on to discuss what he calls Bush’s most “mind-boggling failure” — the Medicare prescription drug plan. Personally, I don’t think any failure can beat Iraq. But there’s so much more — plutonium processing in North Korea, an out-of-control budget deficit, the failure to bring Osama bin Laden to justice, the failure to follow through on basic homeland security measures — in fact, is there anything this Administration has done that’s been a success?

Yesterday saw another staged Bush “event” in New Orleans, in which the President was photographed in rolled-up sleeves shaking hands with contractors in hard hats. He certainly knows how to look like a leader. But while the President who claims to be a “problem-solver” whines that the problems with recovery efforts in New Orleans are Congress’s fault, we might ask what Bush has done in the past six months to get Congress to act. Bush’s endless series of disaster relief photo ops may have some entertainment value, but they aren’t picking up the debris or rebuilding the homes.

“The corrupt tree produces evil fruit,” Jesus said. Too true.