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Baratunde Thurston @ The Yearly KOS

Mr. Thurston brings down the house.

Katie Halper at the Yearly KOS

Katie brings it home at the Yearly KOS.

Lee Camp at the Yearly KOS

Lee Camp running wild in the windy city.

Harry Terjanian at the Yearly KOS

Harry being 'the man' in Chicago.

Freedom Censorship

Laughing Liberally's Lee Camp talks Thailand, censorship and what kids are seeing on YouTube these days.

Iraq, You Report

It's almost time for General Petraeus to present his report on Iraq's progress to Congress.

And a lot of folks are giving the Administration grief over the fact that, while General Petraeus will present the report, the President will prepare the report.

The criticism is unfair, I think.

Look at it from the President's point of view. This is a situation where the President is really just helping out a friend with a tough assignment. I'm sure when the President was in school and he had to present a report, he had someone else write it up for him.

He's just paying it forward.

You Don’t Have to be a Miner to be a Mine Hero

I was sure that the Liberal, Jewish, Gay, Vegan media would spend Labor Day podcasting renditions of the Internationale and running old footage of the Crandall Canyon accident in their ongoing attack on American and corporate values. I was wrong on both counts, the holiday passing with little media attention to workers and their “grievances” old and new. This leaves us free to celebrate true heroes, not your union-made Joe Hills and Mother Joneses, but unsung modern heroes of the mines, who eschew martyrdom yet sacrifice so much. I speak of Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, and MSHA president Richard Stickler, and, of course, CEO Robert Murray. To them I present the Awards for Non-Miner Mine Heroes. Because you don’t have to be a miner to be a mine hero.

I announce these awards just hours before the Senate holds what it calls an "investigatory hearing" -- and what I call a witch hunt-- on "The Utah Mine Disaster and Preventing Future Tragedies." Ironically, and undoubtedly, the heroes praised on these pages will be the scapegoats slandered on the hill.

Bronze Non-Miner Mine Hero Award goes to Elaine Chao. Hers is the typical American story of reward for hard work. The daughter of a shipping magnate, Chao left China for the United States in 1961 . She has labored as a banker, sweated as Bank of America vice-president, and worked herself to the bone at the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation. She toiled tirelessly to raise $100,000 for George Bush, which earned her the honor of being a “Bush Pioneer.” Chao generously shared the keys to the kingdom of job security in an interview this summer: “American employees must be punctual, dress appropriately and have good personal hygiene…. They need anger-management and conflict-resolution skills, and they have to be able to accept direction.” Chao has already moved to organize an “independent” probe into the mine collapse, which, the indefatigable Chao will personally oversee, even if it cuts into time with her husband, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, who received $100,000 in campaign contributions from CEO Murray. Like so many great non-miner mine heroes, Chao is now being persecuted by OCD senators like Ted Kennedy, who is demanding that Chao hand over a ridiculous number of documents related to the Crandall Canyon accident.

Silver Non-Miner Mine Hero Award goes to Richard Stickler. The head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration isn’t named Stickler for nothing. Stickler has dedicated many years to the mines as a high-level executive, and it is this, no doubt, that allows him to creatively interpret the MINER safety act passed after the Sago mine tragedy. For instance, Stickler allows mine operators to meet deadlines by ordering safety equipment (like additional breathing devices), and not having it be on hand. Stickler’s qualifications outweigh the fact that a mine under his supervision had injury rates three times the national average and racked up 3,000 safety violations. Stickler is so bipartisanly respected in Washington that Bush appointed him during a recess after congress had twice rejected Stickler’s nomination. In true stickler character, Stickler is aggressively investigating the collapse: “We want to see if we can get an inkling if there may have been an indication there was a problem before this event.” I’m sure the Stickler means a sign that is more substantial than the cave-in that occurred in Crandall Canyon in March, which he knew about, but did not report, violating federal law. It’s no surprise that Stickler is being slandered by bleeding heart liberals like Arlen Spector, who say Stickler is not “the right man for the job” and cry baby Ted Kennedy, who is

particularly troubled by reports that roof failures, similar in kind to the August 6 collapse, previously occurred in sections of the mine where retreat mining was being conducted, and that this roof failure may not have been reported to MSHA regulators as required by law.

Of course, rather than being allowed to continue his already scrupulous investigation, Stickler will be dragged off to today's hearing and bombarded with endless rounds of questions.

Gold Non-Miner Mine Hero Award goes, of course, to Robert Murray. Like so many activists before him, Murray has many enemies, including several senators who, I'm sure, will attempt to crucify the CEO during today's hearings. Having gulped the liberal media’s poisonous Kool-Aid, Robert’s own workers have turned against him and “Lil Bob” piñatas are selling like hotcakes in both the U.S. and Mexico. An understandably outraged Murray responded to the Utah Republican Governor, who had called his behavior “unconscionable” and demanded inspections of all of Murray’s mines, by sending the Governor a “personal and confidential” letter threatening to cut Utah mine jobs if the governor continued to treat him like his “whipping boy.” And sure enough, four days later, Murray laid off 270 workers from his other Utah mine, explaining to the workers that the noisy governor, the “unfair” Salt Lake Tribune, and the vicious Ted Kennedy were responsible for the Tower Mine closing.

Murray insists the collapse was “totally unforeseen by anyone” and brought on by an earthquake and not retreat mining.

Yet there is evidence to the contrary: A similar incident in March caused a delay in mining – which was never reported to the MSHA, though required by federal law. Murray Co. repeatedly (and successfully) petitioned the MSHA for permission to do retreat mining in areas the previous company had left alone because it deemed that mining in the area would be too dangerous for “personnel and the environment.”

Before making the awards decision, I had to reconcile the words of this compassionate CEO with the facts that have surfaced. Liberal conspiracy theorists claim Robert Murray is a liar who puts profits over people, whose greed, unchecked by a complicit Bush administration, has resulted in the death of hard-working miners. And yet the truth, as always, is far more complicated and nuanced. Far from killing and injuring his workers through his ruthless avarice, Robert Murray is, himself, an injured worker, the victim of an occupational hazard, an on the job injury: early onset dementia. It is because Murray so identifies with his workers that, while his body is healthy, his soul is with his six missing employees suffocated and crushed in the depths of the Crandall Canyon mine. Murray is not lying about the retreat mining and the change in mining plans. He forgot about them. He did not invent an earthquake. He experienced it in his demented state.

Of course, my heart goes out to the six missing miners and the three miners who died while trying to rescue them. But these miners are gone. And besides, they have received more than enough attention and sympathy from the media, the church, and the self- serving unions, which are attempting to exploit this tragedy in order to organize miners so that tragedies like this do not happen again. After the accident, in fact, the family members asked the union to represent them. Luckily, the always impartial MSHA has said that only the miners themselves can ask to be represented. I guess the miners should have thought about that before they entered the mine for the last time on August 6th. While we must honor their memory, we must heal the victim who is still alive: Robert Murray. I hope the Non-Minor Mine Hero Gold Award helps to heal his battered soul and brain.

UPDATE: I have just learned that Robert Murray will not be testifying at Wednesday's Senate hearing on mine safety. As usual, Murray is thinking not of himself, but of his workers, explaining he would not be able to “give the situation in Utah the proper attention it needs if I have to travel to Washington to testify.” I like to think that receiving the GNMH (Gold Non-Miner Mine Hero) award emboldened the principled CEO to defy the Senate's Big Brother meddling. Even though we won’t be able to see Murray testify today, we can always see him testify here.

My Durst Time: Talking with Comic Will Durst about the All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing


Will Durst is a San Francisco-based comic, pundit, and “Quite possibly the best political satirist working in the country today.” He and I first met when we performed at a Laughing Liberally show in LA.

A year later, we got a chance to reconnect in New York, where Will is making everybody laugh with his new one-man show Will Durst: The All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing. From left to right and everywhere in between, from the New York Times to the New York Post, the critics are raving.

When we met on Manhattan's Upper West Side, Durst was reading the sports section over a cup of black coffee. No doubt he had finished reading the latest issue of the Nation magazine and drunk his chai-organic-double-vegan-latte before I got there. But he wasn't fooling me. And soon we were talking about getting flipped off by Olympia Dukakis, helping the terrorists win, necrophilia and other things liberals enjoy.

Katie Halper: Why do you hate America?

Will Durst:
I'm not an America-hater, I'm an America-lover. Dissent is the ultimate patriotic act. Just like every liberal commie pinko weenie says.

Halper:
When did you start hating America?

Durst:
I started loving America right away. Free water. Water fountains everywhere. Refrigerated, cold, refreshing water. You try getting that anywhere else. Try getting that in France, not gonna happen. Go head, I dare you. It's $5.

Halper:
Funny, I was going ask you why you don't move to France. But I guess it's the whole water thing. Anyway, you have moments of redemption when you praise Bush, calling him a father figure.

Durst:
He has been like a father to me. Just in terms of providing.

Halper:
So he's a good provider?

Durst:
Yes, not just a decider and a commuter; he's also a provider. Not just for me, but for editorial cartoonists, columnists, anyone with a speck of consciousness. He is very fecund and fertile.

Halper:
He is very virile.

Durst:
He's like a rising tide. The rising tide of Bush lifts all boats. It's a wonderful rain, it's a hard rain.

Halper: I saw Olympia Dukakis sitting right in front of me in the theater [at your show] and I knew I was in a scary place: a theater in New York, a woman who represents the unholy alliance between the Hollywood elite and liberals. But I was impressed when you got into a hissing match with her. Because anyone who hisses at a Dukakis is a friend of mine.

Durst:
Yeah, I told a tough joke about Hillary, which I thought was fair, and then she hissed at me. I got her back on my side by doing the second part of the joke. I didn't know it was Olympia Dukakis at the time. But then when she came backstage, I recognized her. "Oh, my living god. I got heckled by an Oscar winner."

Halper: I think you got flipped the bird too.

Durst: Oh really? She flipped me off?

Halper:
Yeah. How does it feel being flipped off by a Democrat?

Durst: Well somebody's gotta do it. I feel like Dennis Miller.

Halper: You make fun of Arnold Schwarzenegger for signing a law outlawing having sex with corpses. Why do you want to legalize necrophilia?

Durst:
It's a freedom issue. Like the sanctity of life. It fits into the whole pro-life thing. It's actually part of the pro-life movement.

Halper: Right, the right-to-lifers for necrophilia. And then you're not wasting the seed either.

Durst: Right. Although I'm not sure exactly how that fits in, so to speak.

Halper:
In your show you provide immigrants and terrorists with a plan for getting across the border. Why do you help the terrorists win?

Durst:
I am of two minds about putting that portion in the show. I understand it could be considered aiding and abetting the enemy to let them know they could go around the 700-mile-long, 16-foot-high wall that covers a 1,952 mile-long border. Or they could bring a ladder. But since they have already started building tunnels, they probably already thought of it. But I really hope that you don't make a big deal of it. Maybe you shouldn't even print this.

Halper:
What do you think that political comics can achieve?

Durst: I think we can distill what seem to be incredibly complex questions into something any audience member can understand. They don't have to be a poly-sci major. You can empower them to know that their opinion is important. There's no way that people are going to become enlightened. You're usually preaching to the choir. But it's nice to get the choir to sing. Especially after we've been used as human dart boards for the last six and a half years.

It's funny because there was a time when you couldn't do jokes about Bush. Even though we were, starting on Jan. 21st, 2001. Then Sept. 11th happened, and you couldn't touch him. It was seen as unpatriotic; we were involved in a war. Then Katrina happened. And taking on Bush became fashionable, and now it's considered old hat. We had a window of 18 months for Christ's sake when it was OK. And then it was, "Oh no, Bush is low-hanging fruit," or, "Everybody bashes Bush." Fuck you! We haven't hit him hard enough, and we're gonna hit him until ... until he dies, OK, until he dies, and we'll keep hitting, and then that still won't be enough.

Halper:
And then you'll have sex with him?

Durst:
Exactly, goes back to the Schwarzenegger law.

Halper: We've really come full circle. Speaking of dead people and perverts, let's go back to the Democrats. My favorite part of the show, obviously, is when you focus on your Clintons, your Kerries, your Dukaki. More of your thoughts on them?

Durst:
The Democrats seem more interested in getting re-elected than they are in changing anything for the better. When Gore ducked the Kansas Board of Education teaching intelligent design along with evolution and said, "Children should be exposed to varying theories," I just wanted to dick-slap him, I really did. And he would have had to have been very close, and I understand that. Not that I don't believe in Giselle the Mountain Sprite. She's from where all things flow. She's my goddess.

Halper: Do you renew the show every day with new news stories and headlines?

Durst:
I try to. There was a quote from yesterday about dog fighting, and I'm chomping at the bit, so to speak, to put it in the show tonight.

Halper:
And how do you actually get your news?

Durst:
First I wake up at noon. Then I have to clear all the potato chip bags and beer cans that are covering the floor.

Halper: And the copies of the Nation?

Durst: Of course. Then I find a phrase that I love, and I try to come up with a punch line. I'm all one-liners. They're strung on top of each other so that hopefully the previous punch line is a set up for the next joke. It's piggybacking, which is a timing that I learned works because if you wanna do political comedy in Stockton, Calif., at Uncle Chuckles Fun Hut, then you have to learn how to get them to shut up.

There are about four places where we can work and people really know what we're talking about. N.Y., San Francisco, D.C., Boston. And I don't blame people because it's such a morass, it's so ugly, it's hard to keep up. The names are constantly changing. The circus remains the same, but the clowns are different. So I don't blame people if they don't know what I'm talking about. They have families, jobs, they have a life. It's our job to keep up on this shit and try to put it in terms they understand.

Halper:
Was your comedy always political?

Durst: When I started doing standup in 1974, there was the Vietnam War and everything was, "We're gonna fight the man, man." Now, we are the man, man. But everything was political then. High school arithmetic was political. Of course in Wisconsin we didn't get the '60s until about 1974 anyway.

Halper:
Was there one thing in particular that politicized you?

Durst:
There were some riots in Milwaukee. I actually got run over by a horse. I was there for the chicks. That's what everyone went to rallies for no matter what they say. That was about as political as I got. I was never a big Weatherman kinda guy. I thought blowing shit up to protest blowing shit up was kinda oxymoronic.

Halper: Why a show and not just standup?

Durst: Bigger canvas, more paint, and with writing you can plant a seed in the first paragraph and follow it until it blooms in the last paragraph. That's something I can do with the show. I can take my time between laughs. I always thought I was more literary than most comics. Which doesn't mean they're not smart. Comics are smart. They have a lot going on in their minds. Most are ADHD.

Halper:
Are you?

Durst: I dunno. When I was a kid, I was hyper. They started feeding me coffee at the age of 10. That was a popular therapy at the time, over-amping the kid to short-circuit him.

Halper: What's the worst thing that ever happened to you at a show?

Durst:
A guy threw his prosthetic leg at me. He was trying to be funny. I held it up. Then I had a glass ash tray shatter behind me on the wall. The woman said she threw it because she was laughing so hard. Then I had a guy taken out on a stretcher because he had a heart attack right before I went on stage. I had a corporate gig the week after 9/11 for a law firm in Palo Alto, and they had an office in the World Trade Center and had just lost 16 people. So they had a moment of silence, and then they brought me on stage. I swear to fucking god.

Another time, this guy started yelling at me, and I couldn't hear him. And someone was taping the show, so he rushed at the camera and tried to grab it and had to be escorted out. It turns out he was an out-of-work right-wing talk show host. So he's calling all the radio stations in Sacramento and saying he was molested by the club staff, saying his freedom of speech was violated. Nobody would return his calls. Another time someone was going to beat me up in a club, but he got into a fight with someone who liked me, and they beat each other up. Good times.

Halper: Are you going to be sad at the end of Bush's term?

Durst: No. Because we're gonna get to know so much about the next person. Some people predicted the demise of political humor after Bill Clinton. Everything was below the belt. Every two-bit hack in America took his dick jokes and made them presidential dick jokes. Corporate gigs loved it when I would take on Clinton. I lost a lot of corporate gigs after Clinton. It's not so funny when you take on the boy king.

Halper: Who was your biggest influence?

Durst:
Lenny Bruce. I used to listen to him before I went on stage. I read his autobiography, How to Talk Dirty. And there are great political comics out there. You were hysterical the other night. And there's Lee Camp, Costaki, David Feldman, Johnny Steel, Barry Weintraub. Marga Gomez is my hero. I worked with Mort Sahl a few months ago. He's great. He's 80 years old and his opening line was, "If Paris Hilton goes to jail, will that rob her life of meaning?"

Halper:
What are you hoping your show will accomplish?

Durst:
Driving a nail through capitalism.

***

Will Durst: The All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing
is now playing at New World Stages, 340 W. 50th St., Manhattan, (212) 239-6200. It is presented by Hanging Chad Productions, Jennifer Sachs and Allen Spivak; and directed by Eric Krebs; and it features a production design by Peter Feuchtwanger. For tickets go to Telecharge.com or call 212-239-6200.