Friday, April 30, 2010

Amazing funnyman Lee Camp thinks he's spotted a pattern running through the WV mine and LA oil-rig disasters

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"I can't put my finger on it, but I think there's a pattern. Oh I know! Every time we deregulate -- something exciting happens!"

by Ken

It's been on my mind since the West Virginia mine disaster, when the first reports I heard, on NPR, referred to the mine company involved as having a "mixed" safety record. I wondered, what is a mixed safety record for a mining company? Some days nobody dies, and some days . . . well, what're you gonna do?

Before I had time to think much more about it, Howie already had a post up about the appalling safety record of Massey Energy and its safety-indifferent, union-sneering, judge-buying, Tea Party-promoting principal, Don Blankenship ("Another Tragic Consequence Of 8 Years Of Conservative Governance Unfolds In West Virginia," followed up on April 9 with "25 Miners Are Dead In West Virginia Because Rich Wingnut Mine Owner Only Abides By Laws He Approves Of"), and the rest of the progressive blogosphere was on the case. Soon the infotainment-news media were making vague references to Massey's problematic history, but it never became much of a story -- unlike, say, the right-wing smear campaign against ACORN, which the infotainers jumped into gleefully, never showing the slightest interest in the growing indication that it was mostly right-wing agitators doing what right wingers always seem to do these days: lying their incapable-of-truth heads off.

After the BP oil-rig collapse, I swear I actually heard some newshawker pass on the claim that there was supposedly no oil leaking out into the Gulf of Mexico. Now I'm no oil geologist or drilling expert, but when you have a rig on top of an undersea well and then no rig, stuff is going to keep coming out. Now we know that whatever ignorantly or intentionally underestimated count of the spillage was finally issued, the actual spillage is at least five times that, and as it may take 90 days yet to cap the well, the disaster is poised to overtake the Santa Barbara and Exxon Valdez spills.

This morning on the radio I heard former Louisiana Sen. Bennett Johnston* [UPDATE: there actually was a J. Bennett Johnston footnote in the original version of this post; I must have inadvertently lopped it off in the pasting process, but I think you get the idea without it] who I assume is now a (generously) paid shill for various energy interests, acknowledging that it's a disaster but venturing that we'll have to see just how bad it gets to know whether it will have any effect on public enthusiasm for drilling. Apparently a "mere" disaster that subsides may well be forgotten -- provided it doesn't turn into a catastrophe. Those catastrophes tend to linger in the public mind a little longer, sometimes with negative results.

Drill, baby, drill!

But again, there are some stories -- typically when they're regurgitating right-wing talking points -- when the infotainment-newsers automatically assume the worst, and others where they have to be dragged kicking and screaming into contact with reality. The Progress Report, in its typically thorough survey today of "An Oil-Driven Disaster," notes:
BP, which was in charge of operating the rig, has a history of fighting tough regulations and safety inspections, misleading federal authorities about the dangers of a potential oil spill, and actively advocating for more relaxed safety standards -- much like Massey Energy Co. repeatedly fought tougher regulation of mines.

Increasingly, it seems that we have to turn to comedians for tidings of the real world, as with the Lee Camp video above.

Longtime readers may recall a post of Lee's from Scholars and Rogues that we reprinted a couple of years ago: "How to win the Iraq war debate against your dumb friends," which included the dazzling image of then-President George W. Bush being "like a colorblind child with a Rubik's Cube." More recently we showed you the CIA-forged memo Lee had "found" which "proved" that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger -- and also the scrawled note from Chimpy the Prez to the CIA which set the forgery in motion.

It's been on my mind to find out more about Lee, and I finally seized the opportunity to catch an "encore performance" of a show he did originally last month as the basis for a new DVD, "Chaos for the Weary," at The Tank. (Ticket price: $5! And that included two talented opening acts, the arch singing duo God's Pottery, and the sketch comedy troupe Free Love Forum.)

At Lee's earlier show, the late George Carlin's daughter Kelly provided a remarkable introduction:
Since my dad died, I’ve been concerned about who’s going to keep the torch alive, who’s going to keep it lit. Three things about Lee really remind me of my father: One of which is that he’s a thinking person’s comic. Secondly, he may just piss you off a little. But the most important thing is that he’s really fucking funny.

No argument here, and the evocation of George Carlin, whom I once called here "the wisest funnyman alive" (while he still was), seems to me on the money. Lee is even more directly political, but like George he has an inspired sense of what it all means in human terms, and he's funny as anything. (His official bio begins, "Lee Camp is even funnier than that YouTube video you saw of that kitten watching a tennis match.")

You'll get a good flavor of the show I saw last night, except that the energy level last night was way higher, with an audience that was hanging on, and slayed by, every word. In print Lee comes across as remarkably clear and lucid; in performance he, well, gives one hell of a performance. Of course the same thing was true of George Carlin, who was a dazzlingly lucid writer but also a commanding performer.

I was only sorry that after the show I couldn't find where those copies of "the old DVD" Lee had told us about were being sold. There seemed to be a lot more interest in the cookies that I gather his wife had baked. I also felt bad because there was an easy opportunity to say hello to Lee, who was in the lobby with hardly anyone around him. Only I couldn't think of anything non-imbecilic to say. I'm sure he wouldn't have minded if I had told him how brilliant I thought the show was. But I figured he had to know that. Anyway, he had done his job, giving that amazing hour's performance. And I had done my job, laughing my head off and clapping.

Of course I could have asked him about buying the DVD. I guess now I'll just have to wait for the new one.


"We're fine with it. We like it." (There's more from the Comic Strip Live gig here.)

- - - - - - - - - - - - -
*A page on the website of D.C. lobbywhores Steptoe & Johnson LLP brags that --
Senator J. Bennett Johnston, through a strategic alliance between his firm, Johnston & Associates and Steptoe & Johnson LLP provides key legislative and public policy advice to clients of the Government Affairs & Public Policy practice at Steptoe. Senator Johnston is not an employee of Steptoe. His services are offered to firm clients as part of the strategic alliance.
And after running through his illustrious four-term Senate career as a zealous reactionary and energy-industry whore, it notes:
Since his departure from the Senate, the Senator has remained actively involved in energy and other matters on behalf of numerous multinational corporations and other interests. He has served on the boards of Chevron, Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold, URS, and Columbia Energy Group.
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6 Comments:

At 9:08 AM, Anonymous mikbee42.0 said...

about time dwt noticed the unfolding disaster in la.
i heard the same story all over nbc that there was no oil leaking.
just watch and see how really fucked up our government is in handling the preventable crime of planet destruction. drill baby drill the asses of the poor and middle class people again.
bp fucks up the gulf of mexico and the taxpayer gets the bill again.

 
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